Crew Resource Management: Is it time to rethink our approach?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Crew Resource Management has an image problem. For many, CRM training means little more than a day in the classroom which generally inspires at best a resigned ambivalence.

CRM has an image problem…

Perhaps, there has been a failure to attempt to define CRM for what it really is. A failure to separate it from being just another compulsory annual training item to tick off, alongside the more minor competencies, and place it in the context of aviating as a whole.

The problem with defining it as a set of syllabus items to meet the regulatory requirements is that the end objective of CRM training becomes compliance. But compliance is not the end objective of CRM training. The purpose of the training is to make us better, safer, more complete aviators.

The end objective of CRM is not compliance.

Is this the fault of the regulators by creating a culture of compliance which demands adherence to a set syllabus and the repeated teaching of the same items over and over?

Or is this the fault of the operators for misunderstanding what CRM is, for failing to grasp the flexibility that exists in the regulation to encourage a tailored and adaptable approach to training, and for a mental laziness on how to approach training as a way to engage with improving your operation?

Are we losing sight of the ends by focusing too much on the means? That is to say, the means of compliance. How do we achieve a change of mentality to embrace the fact that CRM is no more and no less than a catch-all term for all the behaviours, knowledge, and skill sets that make and define us as pilots or aviators?

CRM has an image problem. Is it beyond resurrection? Or could we shift the paradigm to make it genuinely integral to and inseparable from any other part of recurrent flying training? It is my belief that annual CRM training session should be (within the context of CRM theory) a forum for a broad operational debrief of the problems, challenges, positives and negatives of what you do or how you operate. It should ask questions such as, ‘what could we do better and how?’ ‘What do we do well and why?’ ‘How could we extend our expertise?’ ‘Where are the gaps in our knowledge?’ ‘How do we better draw lessons from what we do?’ It should be unique to each operator, and tailored to meet the questions raised by each part of their operation. Because if that is not our approach the we will never manage to take the training into the aircraft, which should be the ultimate end point of dedicating time, effort, and expense to it.

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