What this book is about (and not about)

There are four issues we have to clarify in relation to our focus. This book is about:

a. the individual rather than the group

b. behaviour rather than personality

c. routine work, as well as unusual situations

d. technically relevant skills - not ‘soft’ skills.

Individual rather than group

First, it is important to note that the focus of our attention is on the individual rather than the work team. In most safety-critical industries, work is carried out by teams of technical specialists and so the work group will normally provide the context for the individual’s behaviour. The social skills we discuss are about team members working collaboratively on overlapping tasks to achieve common goals or about how to lead a team to produce safe and efficient work performance. But our unit of analysis is the individual team member, not the work group as a whole, so for example we do not discuss measures to observe or rate a team as an entity.

The reason for this focus on the individual is because the individual is the basic ‘building block’ from which teams and larger organisational groupings are formed. Moreover, in our experience (e.g. civil aviation, the energy industry, hospital medicine), people often do not work in the same team every day. In fact, team composition is rarely fixed due to shift and rotation patterns, on-the-job training, organisational constraints and working time restrictions. In the larger airlines, the same pilots rarely fly together and for that reason, the focus in European aviation has been on the individual pilot’s technical and non-technical competence, rather than on a crew.

Pilots are taught and examined on the psychological and physiological factors influencing human performance in their initial training programme (human performance limitations, see Campbell and Bagshaw, 2002). This training in human factors is usually a prerequisite for pilots attending CRM training. Therefore, when pilots begin to undertake CRM training, they already possess the basic human factors knowledge. We would advocate that, as in aviation, practitioners should be taught the basic principles of non-technical skills and their impact on human performance for their own profession, before they embark on CRM or other multidisciplinary team training.

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