Cultivating Teamwork and Communication in Aviation SMS
Aviation Safety Management Systems are the wave of the future for safety and safety management industry-wide. There have been many ideas and programs that promised high yields but didn’t consistently deliver. So what sets SMS apart?
A program is only as good as the people in it; without a dedicated team, every program is only worth the paper it is printed on. At AireXpert, we believe that the key to effective SMS implementation is provided by clear communication channels and a culture that fosters teamwork.
What Are the Shortcomings of SMS Programs?
There are reasons why all of the programs mentioned above have failed to achieve their intended results. However, the ‘why’ doesn’t matter all that much; each had its shortcomings that have led those to become primarily defunct.
The weakest link of SMS is the same with all programs: people. However, it is also the strength of every program and organization.
Buy-in has to happen at the top rung of leadership and the students at the bottom. The whole organization has to buy in and believe in the mission. If you let them, your people can be your weakest link, but they are your greatest asset. Shifting culture to embrace safety and implementing the SMS on their own accord is your key to victory.
Are There Communication Gaps in the SMS Framework?
Like every program, effectively deploying SMS depends entirely on a stable and reliable communication strategy. Therefore, it is amplified when communication strategies either work or fail.
The SMS framework is made up of four pillars:
Safety Risk Management
Here’s the deal: we can and do provide an invaluable tool in the SMS process that shares a library of information, retains information and media from events, and implements seamless communication tools that are as easy as calling someone on the phone or texting.
But if management at every level doesn’t motivate and promote the program by example, no amount of communication strategy and tools will make any difference at all. As with all aspects of aviation, the most likely culprit for a safety or safety system implementation failure is and will always be human error.
Whatever safety system you opt for, communication is the most important strategy. There are no exceptions.
The program's foundation lies in a bedrock of communicating standards effectively and clearly. The “What” of your communication strategy is up to you; the “How” is our area of expertise.
The expectation is that it should be easy to access company policy. So why shouldn’t it be?
Shop bulletin boards are a thing of the past. Roughly a quarter of the A&P workforce is over 65. Gen Z is filling in the ranks. So deploying communication for the community at hard times is paramount.
Besides, paper-based communication strategies, email blasts, and more are tiring and outdated. But, more importantly, they leave major gaps in the communication strategy. For example, how do you ensure that safety memos and policies are on their person? Are they supposed to keep a company policy binder in their toolbox? Or scroll through endless company emails on their phones?
Our tech doc and content distribution system is the ideal method to usher in your SMS program and keep it accessible to the entire company at all times. Remember, if the sheet metal tech has to abide by it, so does the C-suite team.
How Will the Effectiveness of an Organization’s SMS Be Assessed?
The effectiveness of SMS has to be judged objectively. The third pillar of SMS is safety assurance; nobody likes it when QA swings by to “take a look,” but it’s a necessary part of the process.
There has to be a level and understanding of the consequences for not complying, although we stress that it should never be the backbone of any safety system. The goal is to promote the program through positive means and methods to the point of the workforce policing itself internally without the external influence of QA write-ups and punitive action.
The SMS is effective when safety assurance is no longer being used as a ‘gotcha’ but is instead lending their technical expertise.
Your SMS is effective when management accepts that flights cancel because an unsafe condition was checked and found.
Your SMS works when the technical employees are empowered to approach management with their concerns, and their concerns are heard without reprisal.
Teamwork Is Critical for Implementing SMS
It sounds like a tired cliche, but it keeps getting recycled because it is true: teamwork is crucial for the effective implementation of every system. In this case, it is the industry-standard safety program, SMS.
Look, here’s the bottom line up front: your technicians have been slammed with safety since the first day they touched the safety wire. They have been preaching about safety from every angle for months, years, or decades.
But they have also seen their supervision rush them through post-flight inspections.
They have witnessed checks signed off with panels still opened and hardware bags hanging from them (yes, it happens). And they have watched their peers get mercilessly raked over the coals for trying to meet unrealistic deadlines and missing something that caused damage. As a result, technicians will be skeptical of this next big safety thing. They are immune to buzzwords. They can smell BS a mile away.
You must convince them through action that you and every level of your supervision and management teams are all-in and, most importantly, that you will hear their concerns.
The most significant pain point in the technician workforce is management. They can deal with long hours, cruddy conditions, and ripped-up knuckles. However, they can not handle reprisal.
Wrapping It Up
Your organization has to have an effective safety strategy. SMS is becoming an industry standard, but it will only be as effective as your management team is at promoting it. Promoting it? Yes, the need to promote the program.
Despite the apparent benefits, safety programs are a tough sell because they are usually full of buzzwords and jargon when the boots on the ground just want to express their concerns or ideas on improving processes without being shot down or, worse, without their career being jeopardized. If you convince them through action that management will hear them and reprisal will not occur, you have won at least half the battle of getting them to communicate.
Meanwhile, we will keep handling the “how” in your communication strategy through our software solutions. Give us a shout today to see a demo on how we will improve communication in your organization!