Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Operational or Optimal Decision Making

Decisions are in concept either based on personal experience or on process data, as Operational or Optimal decisions. Operational decisions are based on heuristic data of outcome, while Optimal decisions are based on variations and performance measurements.

In addition to human factors variations, there are multiple other variations affecting safety of flying. Some of these are short runways, high altitude, unpredictable weather, difficult terrain or combinations of all, and including adding human performance variations.

If just getting there was the point, nothing has to change. 
On the Global playing field it is accepted that one major accident will happen within certain flight hours. However, it is impossible to determine and pin-point future location and time. Operational decisions maintains that the outcome of past flights did not cause an accident, and therefore identifies that the immediate next flight will not involve an accident. If an accident was  expected, the decisions leading up to the accident would not have been made in the first place.  

A perfect accident free record is not necessarily guarantee of an accident free future, or that the operation is managing safety. What heuristic data is telling us, is that operational parameters for a safe flight were greater than the optimal performance parameters of the aircraft. This can simply be illustrated with the process of a pilot's first solo flight. The aircraft is built to perform to far more restrictive parameters than the parameters for a pilot's first flight. Applied operational outcome data does not hold water in today's new generation of SMS, QA and SPC. A landing is only as perfect as the process behind the approach.

The old windsock displays results, but does not give upwind data.
Optimal decisions are based on aircraft performance parameters and takes into account performance parameters of approach speed, approach slope, approach stability, threshold crossing speed, touchdown speed, touchdown distance and rollout distance.  When runways, altitude, weather and terrain are in favor of aircraft performance capability, it is not necessary that the aircraft meets critical performance parameters for a safe landing.

A decisions based solely on heuristic data does in itself allow for optimal performance parameters to be ignored. 


Thursday, July 3, 2014

When The Cat's Away The Mice Will Play

In any operation it could become a task to ensure the job is done correctly when the boss is away. In a professional organization it becomes critical to ensure that everyone performs their tasks to an expected level of standard. A combination of organizational expected safety performance and accountability becomes the safety outcome of the processes.

No matter how the job is done, it leaves tracks for some else to follow.
Some people work well independently, while others needs the boss to assign activities and may not perform to expected standards when the boss is not around. One could say that the only way to have the boss around at any time, is to make everyone the boss of their own responsibilities. Defining documented roles in the process is  supervision, and expectations are job-management, with accountability the authority for an employee to be the boss of their personal responsibilities. These methods simplifies complexity and establishes accountability  of roles and responsibility at organizational levels where they belong.

A glider pilot's responsibility is acceptance of accountability within their work environment. 

As with any type of jobs, performance measurements is conducted by regular testing and sampling of process outcome. If the outcome meets the bar life is good. If it doesn't, then it's back to the drawing board, find the root cause, fix the root cause and do it all over again. It is simpler and more economical to do it right the first time. A process where there is not enough time to do the job right, but enough time to do it twice is a root cause of system failure. 

Applying roles, responsibilities and accountability at appropriate levels of an enterprise and conduct SPC and QA of these processes is preferable to being dependant on fixing root causes. No need to keep the cat around when housework is done.