The topic I have chosen for this months Newsletter is: “How can we make crew members reflect and change behavior?” I gave a presentation at the European Aviation Training Symposium in Berlin 2012. And the contents in this Newsletter are inspired from that same presentation.
I believe that an adjustment of behavior would be a main goal in any training: We train either to maintain a desirable behavior or to change for a more desirable behavior. Behavior is basic and important as it affects the people around us – thus influencing situational awareness, decision making, communication and teamwork. So my question is then: “How can we make behavioral changes happen?”
A vulnerable inbuilt system
CRM is all about non-technical skills, Human Factors. Those soft areas that are sometimes easier to define than relate to. How will I for example teach my students to become better communicators? How will I teach them to become better team builders or to have better situational awareness or to be better decision makers? I can pass on a lot of theoretical stuff to them and I can back it up by statements from psychologists and case studies showing us what to do and how to do it. But is that sufficient? How will I make sure that any learning takes place. I can´t very well just hand them a test with a questions like: “Are you a better communicator now?”
Mark “YES” or “NO”….
Let me just give you an example to illustrate to you what I mean:
Imagine that you read an article stating that it would be beneficial for you to change hand when brushing your teeth. So if you are right handed and normally brush your teeth with your right hand, then now imagine that you are to do this with your left hand. You know from the article that it is good for you.
The first time or the first couple of times you are going to brush your teeth, you will grab your toothbrush consciously with your left hand and you try it out. However, what happens the next morning when you are in a hurry, a bit pressed for time? You rush into the bathroom, you quickly grab your toothbrush – with which hand, do you think? Yes, you grab it with your right hand because this is what you normally do – this is your normal behavioral pattern. And a trigger for relapse in this case would probably be a stressful situation, being in a hurry. So having this awareness that stressful situations often trigger relapses will help you not falling into the trap of using old habits.
This “inbuilt human system” also works with other behavioral patterns. We have to consciously work on it and feel the benefits of our new behavior before we can claim that a change has happened.
As you can imagine changing behavior is a lengthy process. If a change of behavior was as easy as the hydraulic system on the B737 then we could easily cure all the alcoholics in the world…… You would be able to give the alcoholic the perfect cure: Just tell him “don´t drink alcohol” and the alcoholic would instantly realize that not drinking is the solution. That´s it….cured.
How do we create an acceptance that a change of behavior is needed?
We all know it does not quite work like that – because behavior is not only linked to knowledge – it is also strongly controlled by emotions. CRM is for attitude (feelings resulting in a behavior) what simulators, line training and testing is for skills and knowledge. In that light it makes sense that CRM can not be delivered as instructions, lectures of distant learning.
It is for that reason that NaviMinds design our CRM and Human Factors training from a concept we call:
Emotion – Reflection – Change
My belief is that the best way to achieve this acceptance is to play with behaviors and emotions via group work, exercises and role plays that actively engage the crew members in the problem solving via their behavior. The quality of the instructor´s ability to ask the right questions to create a proper discussion is essential and gives crew members a chance to reflect on the outcome of their own actions and behaviors. This could for instance be an exercise where everybody possesses one or more little pieces of information and that all the pieces put together can make the participants come up with a solution. Low submissiveness, assertiveness or aggressiveness might surface in such an exercise and the emerging of such should always be brought up during the discussion after the exercise. The art is not to focus on the right and wrongs – but to focus on the how did you feel and what happeneds.Most importantly: Give them some tools to work with. Some simple communication tools that they can actually try out immediately – not only in their roles as crew members, but also in their daily “toothbrushing” lives.
I would like to give you an example of what I mean by “creating an awareness of the need for change”:
At EATS 2012 I included the following example in my presentation:
On my powerpoint I gave my audience 5 questions to answer. Five questions that do not require any specific knowledge, only logical thinking. I told people that they had to be quite quick as I would only give them 30 seconds to find the answers. When the 30 seconds were up, I gave them the correct answers.
I then asked this question: “How many of you turned to the person next to you in order to answer the five questions – raise your hands please….”
I did not see any hands in the air.
We talk about working together. We talk about being a team, the importance of delegation and asking for help. Yet we often react as if we are competitors. And I am convinced that IF we had worked together and asked for help then we would have been able to solve all the questions… had we only cooporated.
So why did people not turn to the person next to them? I never told them to work together. On the other hand I never told people they couldn´t. Our culture conditions us to compete, to get the most correct answers and the best grades.
Take this little exercise into the classroom, add a few more questions and give the students 3 minutes and you will have 15, 20 or even 30 students working on their own, individually to find the answers. And what´s more – most even take good care not to look to the person next to them, because that would be cheating. This happens eventhough they know they signed up for a Crew Resource Management course.
It shows us that apparently it does not come naturally for us to turn to look for the nearest helpful resource. We have to train to become better at that.
I hope that I – with this little example of an exercise have created an awareness that even in groups that know each other, with an awareness that they are attending a Crew Resource Management course or evening listening to a Human Factors specialist, there is still room for improvement when it comes to working together.
There is a proverb I like a lot, and which I think we should all bear in mind when we go to work:
“It is amazing how much people get done if they do not worry about who gets the credit”