Thursday, July 13, 2017

SMS Information In A Suitable Medium

What is a suitable medium and who should it be suitable for?  The unknown variable of this question is who is to decide if the SMS is in a suitable medium or not. Since there is a regulatory requirement is for SMS information is made available in a suitable medium the regulation is written with ambiguity to allow for differences due to organizational size and complexity, but it’s also written for the regulator to decide based their own opinion what is a suitable medium. Airports are the smallest in size enterprise required to operate with an SMS, where there could be a couple of employees, where one is the Airport Manager and SMS Manager, and the other is the Accountable Executive. A suitable medium may be different for an airport than a large airline with thousands of employees. 

At one time, gold and cow hide may have been a suitable medium.
A suitable medium may mean something totally different from person to person, from organization to organization or from time to time. Some years ago, an electronic manual would not be a suitable medium to maintain SMS information and today paper format manuals may be obsolete. For SMS information and documentation to be established in a suitable medium, it must be suitable to the user group. The medium does not need to be suitable to the regulators or to the Accountable Executive, but must be suitable to the users who are feeding data into the SMS system.

A medium, or system that is not userfriendly for the submission of data is a safety system which in the long run will become an ineffective reactive system. This system would not operate within the concept of SMS which is a system of a just culture with proactive safety initiatives and accountability. When a system is developed for the purpose of supporting the bureaucracy of an airport or airline, it becomes ineffective as a supporting tool while a system designed in support of the processes becomes an effective safety management tool. An SMS system is fail-free since it’s another layer of safety supporting the operational safety processes.

A bureaucratic enterprise of SMS tools is best recognized by their attempt to adapt processes by enforcing the design upon operations, rather than changing the design SMS to adapt to operational safety processes. In other words, when a process is in non-compliance with the designed process, the failure may be with the design and not with the process itself.

An attempt to improve safety by enforcing operational design processes onto operational processes may cause unintended effects. If the operational performance of an aircraft is in non-compliance with the design performance, it does not improve safety by enforcing the design performance. Most enterprises are not strictly bureaucratic or an adhocracy systems, but area flexible to accommodate for both a bureaucratic system with prescriptive policies and an adhocracy system for flexibility for safe operations within size and complexity of the operations.

Establishing the SMS system in a suitable medium becomes more than just checking the check-box that an individual has drawn the line in the sand and determined what medium is suitable as a one-fit-all medium. A suitable medium may include more than one medium and include both paper format and electronic format in addition to smart-phone apps. When applying multiple mediums as suitable a bureaucratic enterprise may have difficulties adapting and analyzing data from these different sources, while an adhocracy may have invented additional process to capture all data for analysis. An effective enterprise adapts to processes for continuous safety improvements.  

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