Simon T.

Applying black box thinking to your fleet

In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned I was taking Matthew Syed’s new book to read on holiday. Titled Black Box Thinking, it is a fantastic book, with many lessons to help improve the way we manage those who drive for work. The title comes from Syed’s initial look at how the airline industry handles safety management issues and, in particular, catastrophic failure resulting in fatalities.

When a plane crashes, an investigation team is immediately dispatched to find out what went wrong. The plane’s black box recorders are recovered (these record what the plane’s systems were doing and what the pilots were saying to each other before the crash) the reasons for the crash are established and lessons are learnt.

Having learnt the lessons, the systems are amended to prevent such an occurrance happening again – this might mean the plane’s controls are redesigned, or a new procedure is put in place, and this process also happens when other safety issues are raised.

What is also striking is that no life-threatening incident is ever deemed to be acceptable in the airline industry. This means that when an investigation has been concluded, the results are shared immediately with ALL airlines, so that all can learn the lessons and ensure that it doesn’t happen to them. The result is that there is now just 1 crash for every 2.4 million take-offs among IATA-registered airlines.

Syed then goes on to look at sectors where this thinking is not applied, and we see that they are constantly living with repeating the same mistakes, which can result in both personal injury and huge costs to the business in lost productivity.

The lessons for improvement in our own organisations focus on recording data, and then analysing it and acting on it. Is your fleet insurance premium per vehicle higher than average? Or is your fuel use too high? Are your vehicles consistently suffering the same type of damage? Are the causes for each incident the same? Only when you can answer these questions with confidence, and understand the reasons behind them, can you hope to do anything about it.

The Driving for Better Business Champions fulfil the same function as distributing the airline investigation report. Our Champions have dealt with many of the same issues, have worked out what was causing high collision rates and unnecessary costs, and put in place procedures to stop it happening again. They’ve then shared those stories for others to learn from.

You can read their case studies here. We’re expanding this library all the time and working hard to update the ones from some of our long-standing Champions. Later this month, we also hope to be announcing our first new Business Champion since the campaign was reinvigorated earlier this year.

If you would like to enquire about becoming a Business Champion please complete the form here.