Life Lessons from the Cockpit on Teamwork
Another life lesson that I learned from the cockpit is about teamwork as practiced by the pilots and cabin crew, about how flight crews build the team and how they maintain team cohesiveness especially in an emergency situation.
In any organization or whenever we are involved in any group activities, working as a team is very important. Why is it important for pilots and cabin crew to work well as a team? Well, in aviation, studies have shown that a significant portion of accidents were caused by breakdown in teamwork, where crew members were working as individuals rather than as a team. And I am sure in life too a lot of failures that are encountered in reaching goals, making targets or simply abandoning a project is largely contributed to breakdown in teamwork. Let us now look at how pilots manage to build a good team and maintain that team cohesiveness.
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Pilots and cabin crew do not fly with the same people all the time. They can be scheduled to fly with anybody and the bigger the crew population is, the lesser will be their chances of flying with the same people. Imagine having to tolerate the idiosyncrasies of so many individuals. Therefore, to prevent team members jostling for positions each time they fly, they have documented and defined the roles and responsibilities of team members. There is no dispute on who will be the leader for the flight and what roles the other team members play during normal conditions as well as in emergencies.
- Use of checklists. From the beginning to the end of the flight pilots refer to their checklists all the time. During non-normal situations, each pilot will be busy with his own designated tasks and there could be periods where the captain might not have the time to monitor his co-pilot. Therefore the use of checklists ensures all the required tasks are accomplished (without supervision) and who is supposed to accomplish a particular task.
- Training to enhance teamwork. Pilots continuously attend training sessions throughout their career. Apart from the twice yearly training to maintain and test their proficiency in flying a particular aircraft, pilots attend other training programs such as the crew resource management (CRM) training. All their training teaches and guides them to work well as a team and to further enhance teamwork by subjecting them to various non-normal situations that encourages them to use the team synergy to solve problems.
We can use the above examples and discipline used by pilots and other members of the flight crew in our daily life. It can be applied when working on a project in the office, when working with family members and anytime when we are in a team to further enhance teamwork and to help produce that winning team.
Written by Azharuddin Osman