Crew Resource Management: Is Your Organization “Sully” Ready?

By Check-6

The “Miracle on the Hudson” crew used Crew Resource Management, standard procedures and professionalism to succeed…and sounded cool doing it.

crew resource management operational excellenceOn Thursday, 15 January 2009, 155 people on board US Airways flight 1549 met potential disaster in the sky over New York City. A massive bird strike caused loss of thrust in both engines at an altitude of only 2800 feet.   The ensuing forced water-landing and successful rescue of all 155 souls on board have become one of the best-known events in aviation history and is now the subject of the major-motion film “Sully.”

One of the most remarkable features of the actual event for many, aside from the arguably miraculous outcome, was the professionalism and poise Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger displayed on the radio when he coolly told the controller “we’re gonna be in the Hudson.”    How was that possible?  How was an individual faced with an unprecedented challenge and only minutes from his potential demise able to remain so controlled and manage the situation?

While the film’s presentation placed the role of the NTSB investigators as antagonists, the NTSB serves a very valuable and welcome role in ensuring best practices.  It does highlight in dramatic fashion what are commonly referred to as Human Factors, or simply: conditions that can lead to human error, such as fatigue, stress, task overload, complacency, cognitive and physiological limits, etc.  Human Factors cause people to make mistakes and teams to under-perform. 

Sully and the crew of Cactus 1549 were faced by a litany of mistake-inducing Human Factors, yet they were able to shed unimportant tasks, focus on what was most critical, and use limited information to make the best possible decisions.  They had a pre-determined plan, each crewmember had a well-defined set of tasks to perform, and Captain Sullenberger displayed definitive leadership.  How were they able to perform so effectively under extreme duress?

Pilots and crewmembers use a combination Crew Resource Management or CRM, checklists, and standardized procedures to reduce complexity, avoid errors, overcome Human Factors, and optimize decisions.  CRM is a set of cognitive, communication and leadership skills for teamwork, situational awareness, problem solving and decision making.  See solutions to these problems

Checklists are simple tools designed to ensure consistent and reliable execution.  More importantly, in emergency situations, they free up cognitive resources to focus on analysis and problem solving.  CRM and checklists are engrained in the cultures of both military and commercial aviation.

The official US Air 1549 NTSB accident investigation recognized the decision-making of the flight crew members and their Crew Resource Management during the accident sequence as the number one contributor to the survivability of the accident.

“The Miracle on the Hudson” provides a salient example of the power of Crew Resource Management, checklists, and procedural discipline to help avert a disaster.  However, aviation and many other industries use these same tools to drive operational efficiency and reliable outcomes every day.  Human errors are certainly a major contributor to accidents, but they are also a primary cause of small defects, waste and interruptions in normal operations which lead to rework, downtime, and inefficiency.

Get Sully Ready! Free white paper: Crew Resource Management

Check-6 is the leading expert in helping commercial organizations implement Crew Resource Management, Human Factors awareness and checklists tailored to their operations and targeted business outcomes.  Our Coaches are elite retired Military leaders and former airline pilots with extensive coaching experience in Energy, Transportation, and Manufacturing.  They deliver lasting, measurable business results by embedding with your team in the actual work environment; focusing on Leadership, Operational Process, and Team Behavior; and coaching client management teams to lead change.

How might your team improve operational efficiency, and optimize safety outcomes through team training, coaching, and application of effective checklists – to be “Miracle” Ready?