By Kevin Meyer
We all know how easy it is to jump to the quick and easy conclusion that people are the cause of problems. We see it every day in every organization - verbal warnings, written warnings, terminations. Off with their heads! As if that is doing anything about the problems itself.
The reality is that virtually no one wants to create or cause a problem. It happens, but it's exceedingly rare. Ineffective, confusing, or contradictory processes are generally at the root of the problem.
The FAA appears to understand - thankfully as it's a critical function that I rely on a few times a month. The headline sounds ominous... until you read deeper.
New numbers released by the Federal Aviation Administration show reports of air-traffic errors have nearly doubled in three years. The number of reported incidents in 2007 was 1040, and that number rose to 1887 in 2010, an 81 percent increase.
Egads! But here's the good news.
Diane Spitaliere, manager of media relations for the FAA, told Fox News that passengers should not be alarmed by the increase in errors, because part of the increase was due to better reporting methods implemented in 2008. The new method protects controllers from punishment for errors they voluntarily report.
Since the non-punitive culture of error-reporting went into effect, the FAA says it has been receiving about 250 reports a week. “The FAA’s mission is to keep air travelers safe," Spitaliere said. "Over the past several years, the FAA has transitioned to a non-punitive error-reporting system at its air traffic facilities.
What's the real benefit?
This cultural change in safety reporting has produced a wealth of information to help the FAA identify potential risks in the system and take swift action to address them.
"The FAA takes all errors seriously but we believe increased reporting will result in an even safer aviation system.” The chairman of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Steven Hansen, apparently agrees. He has said that if authorities don't know about the problems, they don’t know what to fix.
To fix the process you must first understand the failures occuring in the process. If you focus on the person caught up in the failed process you won't learn about many of the failures and therefore won't have the ability to even start to fix and improve the process.