When studying our close calls and incidents over the past year, a noticeable pattern began to emerge.
- A plan is made. The team shares common ground or mutual understanding.
- An event challenges the plan (i.e., something goes wrong).
- A new plan is developed.
- At least one member of the team is unaware of the change in plan. Common ground is lost, and someone gets cognitively left behind.
- In our attempt to recover, an incident occurs.
Picture this: a team is piecing down a tree and a saw gets stuck. To safely remove the saw, what needs to go right? What measures would help to ensure safety? Imagine that the team did not explore the risks together and the replan was incomplete. Instead, the new plan was discussed in a native language unintentionally leaving behind a team member with a language barrier. Then, when driving a wedge into the tree to remove the saw, the vibrations and force cause a limb to break loose and fall—narrowly missing the saw operator.
Depending on the event (e.g., along a busy roadside), pressure to rectify the situation quickly may add an additional, unintended layer of risk and uncertainty.
When replanning, communication among all team members is critical not only to keep everyone informed and but also to seek diverse perspectives. When we bring people together to solve problems, we arrive at better decisions and our risk tolerance is lower.
As a leader, your role is to ask good questions (not to have all the answers). Ask the team how we could be surprised and how we could fail. Probe for ways to work safely. Lastly, ask each person, by name, to share their concerns. Collectively, they will arrive a safer solution.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 edition of the UAA Newsline.