• Mike Mullane

How to reduce errors and improve quality

Digitalization has transformed the news industry, not only providing new tools and opportunities, but also increasing competition from a diverse array of new players. A greater emphasis on multiskilling has created more opportunities for multimedia storytelling, while also permitting job cuts to reduce costs. The result is fewer journalists with more responsibilities and under more pressure than ever before.

The answer to managing diminishing resources more efficiently could come from a set of training procedures developed in the aviation sector to optimize teamwork and reduce human error.

In their accounts of how US Airways Flight 1549 successfully “landed” in the Hudson River a few years ago, following a bird strike and engine failure, most of the attention of the media and Hollywood are on the exploits of Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger. Capt. Sully, though, credits multidisciplinary teamwork, honed through a process called Crew Resource Management (CRM), for mitigating the effects of the accident and saving lives.

The aviation sector became interested in CRM, originally known as Cockpit Resource Management, after NASA looked into the role of human error in air crashes found that the majority of errors consisted of failures in leadership, team coordination and decision-making.

CRM is based on the premise that a better understanding of human capabilities and limitations can reduce costly mistakes.

Training focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision-making under pressure.

In Europe, Gianluigi Zanovello has developed leadership and teamwork training programmes based on his own experience as a former Commander of the Frecce Tricolori, the award-winning aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian Air Force, and as Head of Crew Resource Management in his actual employment as Aviation Captain.

“Team work doesn’t come naturally to humans,” says Captain Zanovello. “Unlike other animals, for whom living and working in groups is synonymous with survival, people need training, conviction, dedication and practice to work efficiently in teams.”

Capt. Zanovello has already adapted his methods to enable hospital operating theatres, business and industry teams to reduce human error and boost efficiency. CRM methods and techniques help to avoid, manage and mitigate errors because although not all decisions are life and death, wrong decisions always cost time and money.

Traditionally, there are two approaches to reducing errors in the workplace. The Personal Model is about naming, blaming and shaming, while the System Model recognizes that there are systemic contributions to the cause of errors.

“CRM works on the System Model and addresses error management to reduce the opportunity for error, to detect errors when they occur and to eliminate or mitigate their effects,” explains Rai journalist Vittorio Argento.

Argento, who ran a pilot CRM project in the Rai Radio newsroom, was impressed at how quickly quality improved, including the elimination of both factual errors, such as misspelled names, and technical problems caused by human error. “We became more efficient and really gelled as a team,” he says.

“Crew Resource Management in the newsroom is not about comparing the world of broadcast, or web publishing, to life and death decisions in the cockpit or control tower, but rather about improving quality. That’s a goal that both aviation and media have in common.”

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