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Work-Me & Blog-Me

AUGUST 2012 UPDATE: I've changed jobs since I posted this. However, I think it still works as a fair assessment of the relationship between this blog and my current job, which is not with the regulator. In this, the Web 2.0 world, connections can be made easily. There is no practical way to disconnect completely my blogging from my work.

And while my little disclaimer on the right is designed to create a barrier between the two, it probably doesn't address what has the potential to be a complex relationship.

This blog is my thinking brain in text. Primarily, it's an academic endeavour and therefore, by definition, it is about learning and discovery. I think it is very important to note that I am not blogging any final answers here. These are my thoughts and while I hope they are well considered and rooted in rationality, they are, more than likely, incomplete.

This blog is a personal endeavour with inspiration taken not only from my working environment but also personal activities and encounters. Nothing on here should be considered as necessarily relating to my employer or any specific aviation organisation of which I do get a privileged view. In an effort to ensure that this is the case, I tend to use news items, academic papers and training materials as my main sources of inspiration.

Overall, my blog is about me.

My work on the other hand is not about me. I work as part of a team which is part of an office which is part of a larger office which is part of an organisation. I'm a small piece in a very complex puzzle. I try to fill out my piece to the best of my ability and I hope that I do.

I have applied some of the thinking posted on this blog to projects I'm working on. In doing so, I have realised that some of these posts do indeed need more thought and I will probably bring that thought back here for posting.

I have put forward the arguments posted here in discussions with colleagues. They have listened (I hope) and then synthesized this information with their understanding and their objectives in mind. Like I said, I am part of a team and the viewpoints of many tend to provide a better answer than the opinion of one, especially when the full nature of the environment may not be apparent to each individual.

In short, you can't read this blog and ask why my employer hasn't implemented my ideas and nor should you consider my posts here to be the policy of my employer. In the first instance, as much as you may agree with me (if so, I am flattered), we may share a limited view of the overall situation. In the second instance, I am not omniscient (don't tell my wife), omnipresent (don't tell my boss) or omnipotent (don't tell my kids).

There is Work-Me and there is Blog-Me.

This here, is Blog-Me.

Just to be clear, questions have been raised regarding my blogging activity. No specific issue, just a heightened level of concern over what is still a relatively new form of personal activity. A social media policy is probably forthcoming from my employer and when it arrives, I will abide by its provisions 100%.

Unhappy? No, but...

After a short hiatus and a new job, I've decided to start blogging again. This time on topics related to my new job. My old blog was slanted towards airport safety but with my shift into a more general and strategic role, I thought I'd shift the blogging to a new home and recommence putting my thoughts out there. The name of this blog comes from a chapter in James Reason's 1997 book, managing the risks of organisational accidents. In it, Professor Reason provided a number of reasons why the regulator's lot is an unhappy one.

There are quite a few issues brought up in the chapter with one of the main negative issue being that the regulator is unlikely to receive any accolades for "bringing about a non-event" but is sure to "be judged by those with 20:20 hindsight as making significant contributions to a major disaster".

There is a positive take-home message for those of us silly enough to be a regulator - Professor Reason thinks that we "are potentially one of the most important defences against organisational accidents".

That got me thinking about "that" graph that you see in most safety-related presentations. You know, this one1: "that" graph In an effort to get ahead of the curve, I often turn my mind to trying to identify the next paradigm shift in accident prevention. And being a fairly egotistical, I'm convinced that the next step resides with the regulator at the industry level. Before you judge me too harshly, these's a trend behind my conceit.

At first attention was focussed on the fundamental unit of aviation - the aircraft. Then as the ROI on technological advances slowed, attention shifted to the pilot or the human factor. Then we looked into interactions between pilots with the advent of cockpit resource management. Which morphed into crew resource management when it started looking at cabin crew and then ground crew. At the moment a lot of work is going into company-level interactions - safety management systems and culture.

But it won't stop there, it can't. Traffic will continue to increase and with it, the number of accidents2. The public, travelling or not, will demand safety be better and tickets be cheaper.

So, I think the next frontier will be at that regulatory level. It will involve national and international authorities and its going to involve a lot of reform and a lot of change. It's going to be a hard slog but we've asked those in the industry to rethink safety on a number of occasions. Its not too much to ask ourselves to question the impact of our actions on safety at the frontline and make changes where appropriate.

I'll be posting my thoughts on topics relating to aviation safety regulation here, when I can. Topics I have in the hopper include risk assessment matrices, compliance v safety and safety management systems at the smaller end of the industry. Here we go...

1. I've got quite a few gripes with this graph, I hope to address them in a future post.
2. Actually, some believe we're overdue for an increase in the accident rate.