Introduction to Crew Resource Management - Essay Sample

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Harvey Mudd College
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Crew resource management (CRM), which is also referred to as cockpit resource management refers to a set of training procedures that are used in environments where instances of human error can have devastating effects. As such, it can be used in improving air safety, and CRM mainly focusses on effective leadership, decision making, as well as interpersonal communication in an airplanes cockpit. CRM was formally introduced by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) after it made a recommendation that CRM would be critical in ensuring safety in the airline industry (Salas et al., 2001). The recommendation was made after the board investigated the crash of United Airlines Flight 173 crash, which occurred in 1978. In the airline incident, according to Whipple (2015), it was established that the DC-8 crew ran out of fuel while flying over Portland as the crew was troubleshooting a landing gear problem.

However, to err is human, and in effect, everything that a human being uses, devices, or does is prone to failure and error, which is contributed by human factors (Haerkens et al., 2015). As Haerkens et al. (2015) highlight, human factors refer to all organizational, environmental, and job factors, as well as individual and human characteristics that influence professional behavior in a manner that affects safety and performance. In fact, human factors usually account for the majority of adverse events in the aviation industry. As such, it can be derived that CRM was firstly introduced for aircrew after a series of airline accidents, in which human factors were at play, and determined that they be the root causes. After CRM was implemented, there were better results garnered, including reduction of adverse events, and therefore, CRM has been incorporated in the modern day aviation operation standard. In essence, during occasions of critical cockpit emergencies, CRM is crucial for aircrew effectiveness. However, can be applied in a variety of fields, including in clinical medicine where human factor-related errors have a major impact on patient safety, especially in departments where high risk and time-dependent procedures on vulnerable patients are performed, especially in a multidisciplinary team setting. In essence, this is because, for critically ill patients, the occurrence of complications is mainly related to the outcome (Giraud et al., 1993). In essence, Marshall (2009) iterates the applicability of CRM systems in various medical settings, by stating that:

Aviation and healthcare have much in common. Both fields are extremely complex, requiring that highly trained personnel function ably under considerable stress. In both, human beings are entrusted with the safety of others, and the available literature is replete with evidence that human factors cause the vast majority of harmful mistakes (Marshall, 2009, p. 7).

The drive of this current paper is to highlight the importance of communication for an effective board. It will aim at answering whether boards are trained effectively or communication and whether CRM can be the answer.

Importance of Communication Within the Board

Communication is vital for the board as it ensures that the plane operates optimally. If the communication is ineffective, then there is a high likelihood that there will be an accident. For instance, as Jedick (2014) highlighted, the United Airlines Flight 173 plane crash, as reported by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), was caused by poor team communication, coupled with the captains failure to accept input from the junior crew members, as well as the lack of assertiveness by the flight engineer. One of the aspects of CRM is training, which emphasizes the board or team to approach a situation with the intent of reducing human errors using ways that seek to improve situational awareness, communications, teamwork, decision-making as well as problem-solving. In light of this view, Maintenance Resource Management (MRM), which is a variant of the CRM, having originated in the early 1990s with airlines, for example, the U.S. Air (McKenna, 2002), advocates for increased board communication. CRM, as such, advocates for a decentralized and human-centric approach to safety and encourages the teams involved to communicate crucial aspects of operational risk, as well as safety information informally and directly, regardless of the rank or position, thereby permitting rapid responses, and significantly prevent an impending danger or crisis (Taylor, 1998; McKenna, 2002). Therefore, it can be derived that communication is important in CRM for the board to ensure that it effectively and efficiently communicate mitigate instances of impending dangers, and eliminate possible communication obstacles.

According to Driskell and Adams (1992), there is a tendency for crews who communicate more to perform the flight duties better compared to crews who communicate less and less effectively. Also, communication in the aviation industry is very important primarily because when information pertaining to flight status is transferred, there are fewer errors that are related to the flight system operation. Furthermore, crews who frequently acknowledge commands, observations, and inquiries often tend to make fewer errors. For this reason, when boards communicate better, there is a high likelihood that the performance will improve significantly and there would be more understanding of the roles and responsibilities, thereby mitigating the propensity to commit errors.

Example of Failure Due to Board Behavior or Communication

There are numerous accidents in the aviation industry that are mainly caused by a communication failure. For instance, Commdegrees (2012) enlisted some of the worst aircraft disasters. One of the accident is the Air Florida Flight 90, which occurred in 1982. The plane, on January 13, 1982, was due to travel from the Washington National Airport, which is located in Virginia to Hollywood International Airport located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a layover in Tampa. The conditions were snowy, and the aircraft had been de-iced improperly before commencing the flight. To make matters worse, the plane had no engine anti-icing mechanisms activated. Subsequently, instruments froze and failed to register the correct readings. In consequence, when the cabin crew thought that it had throttled up in sufficiency before take off, the did not know that they had no enough power. The Boeing 737 run-up almost half a mile than it should have done (Commdegrees, 2012). As they set off down the runway, one of the cabin crew officers noticed that something was wrong with the instruments of the plane and was incapable of getting airborne. Having noticed that, he informed the captain. However, his attempts were brushed off by the captain, who despite the warning ordered for takeoff (Commdegrees, 2012). In effect, the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge and killed 78 people, including four motorists. After investigations, it was established that there was sufficient space for the aircrafts takeoff to have been aborted if only the crew had communicated better.

Statistics and Data on the Importance of Communication

Paton (2015) articulates that most U.S. employees (70%) are not engaged at work, which can have a catastrophic implications for those firms that board members have not established internal communication practices in place. In addition, McKinsey Global Institute (2012) pointed out that productivity improves by approximately 20-25% in companies where the board has established detailed internal communications that the employees are more connected, and thus, this subsequently has a potential to increase the revenues significantly. As such, the board should strategize on setting goals and trying new methods of establishing communication. Paton (2015) recommended that there be need to use slack in communicating simple messages, as well as decreasing the number of unnecessary emails sent by almost 30%. Paton (2015) also provide evidence from a survey by Prescient Digital Media that only 13% of workers have reported participating in the use of corporate intranet on a daily basis, and 31% said they never do, and thus, this reveals that the intranet participation is at all time low, and thus, it is important for the board and leaders in the firm to talk to them and try to obtain their perspective. Besides, Paton (2015) reported that only 21% of communicators say they keep their language plain and simple without the use of jargon. Therefore, it is necessary for boards to reconsider the method and language use for communicating if it has not been effective in the past. Additionally, 93% of communication experts assert that including creativity is paramount for the operation of the workforce and also 69% of the workforce would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated and recognized (Paton, 2015).

Communication Styles on Boards

According to De Vries et al. (2009), there are seven main communication style dimensions, which are: preciseness, expressiveness, supportiveness, niceness, emotional tension (assuredness), verbal aggressiveness, and lastly, argumentativeness. Even though there are various communication style dimensions, most scholars focus on two styles that are mostly associated with the interpersonal circumflex, which is dominance and friendliness. These can be divided into five communication styles, which are assertive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, manipulative, and submissive. Assertive communication style values high self-esteem and is the healthiest that a board can use because the board member has the confidence to communicate without the needs of resorting to manipulation or games. The board members know their limits, and it does not allow members of the board to be pushed or push employees beyond their limits. However, it is the least used style. The aggressive style is oriented towards winning, which is usually at someone elses expense (Newton, 2017). Board members who use this communication style behave in a manner as if their needs are most important and as if they have more rights, or have more to contribute to the board compared to other members of the council. It is an ineffective way of board communication style as the message portrayed may get lost because the other people are busy reacting to the manner in which it is delivered (Newton, 2017).

The passive-aggressive style is characterized by a member of the board appearing passive on the surface, but in a real sense, they are acting out their anger indirectly. It means that the member is resentful and powerless and express their feelings by undermining the object of their resentments even it would result in sabotaging themselves (Newton, 2017). The submissive style is all about pleasing other people to avoid conflict subsequently. It is as if the needs of others are more important and other people have more rights and more to contribute. Lastly, the manipulative style is about being shrewd, calculating, and scheming. The style aims at influencing or controlling the other board members or employees to their own advantage. However, the spoken word hides an underlying message that the other people are not aware of (Newton, 2017).

What is the Current Training for Board on Communication

Ineffective communication may be a problem with board diversity. For example, when the members come from different countries or diverse geographical backgrounds, they tend to communicate with each other differently, both verbally and non-verbally. In effect, if there are communication problems on the board, it fosters a lack of cooperation because the managers may not be interested in what others board members are saying, or due to miscommunic...

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