The following quote is attributed to David Holtz, VP of Operations at Delta Airlines: “It’s our job to put a predictable outcome in the customer’s hand”. It’s a great phrase because in a few visceral words it encapsulates an essential issue for business aviation.
How do we make the outcome predictable for our passengers – how do we operate without excuses? We begin by thinking things through, having a plan and relying Policies and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to make it happen – yet excuses remain. Without a fundamental philosophy internalized by all crew, SOP as it is practiced day to day is an imperfect tool. Philosophy is the glue that makes policies and SOPs consistent and outcomes predictable.
Why? Without a clearly articulated philosophy there is no coherent guide for the creation of policies and procedures; they become personal, arbitrary and lack the thread that binds them together and may be anything but standard.
An organization’s mission statement states what they want to do, and detailed procedures defining how it is to be done, but all of this can be unworkable for crews faced with dynamic challenges and fatigue, leaving them empty handed when they need it the most. The “S” in SOP could stand for sloppy operating procedures, because without a fundamental understanding of standards that allows crews to question each other everyone can interpret the procedures in a different manner. It is the philosophy that gets everyone on the same page.
Flight departments that speak SOP and SMS without articulating an elemental philosophy that binds the team together are neither standard nor safe. With everyone working from the same page a synergy is created that protects the mission and backs up the crew on the road as well as the hangar and the office.
An example of a few words that can bind crews together: Safe, reliable, convenient; safety is the absence of doubt; reliable means anticipating outcomes; convenient means consistently meeting passenger’s needs. When crews walk the walk because it is in their operational DNA they become empowered to question their peers by asking if their actions are in line with the key beliefs. A few words that are always in mind are all that are needed to back up crews – day in and day out. Is it safe? Is it reliable? Is it convenient? A philosophy that is easy to remember is an essential element for consistency and the glue that makes procedures doable by all crew, ensuring predictable outcomes – no excuses.