Improving human performance in the shipping industry

By Jenny Eve


Using an independent observer can help clear the “fog” of “it has always been done this way” to identify areas for improve- ment that would not normally be seen.


A company had a series of incidents that caused their client to question the company’s safety culture and adherence to procedures.

Check-6 proposed a comprehensive review of performance on a selection of the company’s vessels. The review would comprise a series of assessed training visits to four vessels over a six-day period that would focus on three areas of the organization:

  • Leadership
  • Process
  • Team Behaviour

The output would be a report providing recommendations for the company to improve its performance.



The main objective for this engagement was to identify specific procedural, behavioural and/or leadership gaps/barriers that may be contributing to incidents and that could be leveraged to improve team performance. Specifically, the visit aimed to:


  1. Understand the role of the captains and senior leaders, chain of command and ship
  2. Understand challenges to timely reporting and incident-free procedural compliance.
  3. Introduce leadership and crews to a Performance Excellence® culture using the Plan Based Execution

The Check-6 Coach was on each vessel for one day to observe operations, interview crew, conduct a culture survey and provide abbreviated Performance Excellence training. In some cases, he was accompanied by the company’s regional HSE lead.

The Check-6 Coach was allowed time to train and speak to all levels of personnel in groups and as individuals. This enabled the following activities to take place:

  1. Conducted one-on-one interviews with captains and senior personnel to identify common themes and trends related to leadership challenges, as well as to better understand team behavior issues that create challenges
  2. Attended daily meetings, toolbox talks and pre-job planning using JSA’s and other SMS
  3. Observed daily vessel operations, including activities requiring permits such as those required by sea
  4. Introduced more than 50 crew to the central concepts of the Check-6 Performance Excellence® culture and assessed receptiveness of crews to training.
  5. Conducted an anonymous survey of 40 crew using 14 questions on various aspects of leadership and behavior to better understand attitudes, dispositions and performance
  6. Facilitated group discussions (including Leaders’ Roundtable conversations) to identify issues at lower levels including discussion of the role of the captain, chain of command and other leadership


Some key areas of improvement were identified for the company, including:

  1. A reinvigoration of the overall compliance with safety procedures for the company with an emphasis on efficiency
  2. Focused leadership training for Safety Captains and Captains
  3. Create communication strategies that are effective for the desired audience such as shorter, impactful, interactive sessions with crews
  4. Review all types of reporting to ensure that an open and honest atmosphere is allowed to thrive


It is very easy to get stuck “in the way it has always been done”. Using an  independent observer can help identify areas for improvement that would not   normally be seen. This can be a bold step for many leaders and they need to embrace this approach. If they do, the rewards can be huge.



David “Shiner” Ehrmann

Check-6 Project Manager

Our cadre of global human performance experts consult and mentor in more than 20 languages. Our coaches apply their decades of military experience operating in complex, high-consequence environments to assist companies striving to optimize human performance while facing similar challenges and opportunities.

N E X T   S T E P S

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