What can we learn from Germanwings Air Disaster?

Have the B***S to learn from mistakes

Have the B***S to learn from mistakes

If you are a nervous flyer, TV bulletins and newspaper articles about aircraft crashes is akin to watching porn – you become addicted to it. There is something awful (yet gruesomely fascinating) about the details. We all want to know ‘why’ something happened, perhaps as a way to rationalise that those particular circumstances won’t ever apply to us. But, the Germanwings Air Disaster gave us something brand new to worry about. Prior to this, we took comfort in the fact that the Pilot wanted to get home safely for tea. Now, we’re not quite as certain. On my last flight from Brussels, I listened hard to the announcement prior to take off, trying to assess the pilots mood! That was a first. Thankfully, she sounded in good spirits.

Post 9/11: After the World Trade Centre disaster, the airline industry changed a number of procedures. We were told that most flights had Air Marshalls on board. There was comfort in the idea that a burly Taekwondo expert was in seat 22A, ready to tackle the bad guys with a Tazer (or 79 year old unruly female passengers who assault air stewardesses and force planes to land in Shannon – like the recent incident). We don’t hear too much about Air Marshals now – probably because this was a high cost solution. The doors into aircraft cockpits were also reinforced, making it more difficult to gain access. Well, that bit of engineering worked (the main pilot in the Germanwings incident was locked out and couldn’t avert the disaster).

Organisation Learning: The work of Chris Argyris in the field of Organisation Development is useful here. Argyris developed the concept of single-loop and double-loop learning. Single-loop learning represents an organisations’ ability to problem-solve and overcome challenges. Double-Loop learning (much less in evidence), is the ability to problem-prevent, by learning from the environment and past experiences through conducting post-mortems (Argyris: 1990). Actually, the pivotal idea in coaching and in therapy is very similar. The goal is for the client to overcome the ‘immediate’ presenting issue and, later, to develop a ‘double-loop learning’ ability, resolving future problems using their own resources.

Post Mortems: The Germanwings investigation is still underway and we don’t want to speculate on any procedural or engineering ‘changes’ which this emerge from this. But, what we can say is that the airline industry is the best industry in the world in terms of learning from previous errors and correcting these. They do this through rigorous post-mortems (no pun intended). In most organisations, when mistakes are made, managers quickly switch onto the ‘back-stroke’, swimming as far away from the disaster as possible. In doing so, they deny themselves and the organisation an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and avoid these in the future. While you don’t always get it right (sometimes the ‘law of unintended consequences’ kicks in) you should at least try to learn from screw-ups – even if you’re not squeaky clean yourself. In the book, Look into the stillness, Donald Hicks suggests: “If you learn from every mistake, you never fail at anything.”


PS: Going Through the ‘Change’: Every week I’m on here giving ‘advice’ about personal change. So, I decided to take a bit of my own medicine and completed 3 sessions of hypnotherapy to overcome my own ‘fear of flying’. Last 3 flights completed without the aid of 6 Bacardis. I’m not saying I’m ’cured’ (one flight at a time) but I am feeling good about this (will keep you posted). Now I can just deal with all the other turbulence in my life!

Lighter Note: FLAWLESS MALE LOGIC (from Kevin Griffin)

Do you drink beer?Man: Yes

How many beers a day?

Usually, about 3 draft Bock beers

How much do you pay per beer?

Man: $5.00 which includes a tip.

And how long have you been drinking?

About 20 years, I suppose

 So a Bock beer costs $5 and you have 3 Bock beers a day which puts 
your spending each month at $450.
  In one year, it would be approximately $5400 correct?


Woman: If in 1 year you spend $5400, not accounting for inflation, over the past 
20 years your spending is circa   $108,000, correct?


 If you didn’t drink so much Bock beer, that money 
could have been put in a step-up savings account. Including compound interest for the past 20 years, by now you could have bought a Ferrari.

Do you drink beer?


So, where’s your Ferrari?

Time for another one? (this anti-consultant joke courtesy of Ger Coey)

Consultant to Wife: In your wildest dreams, did you ever see me flying around the world, giving advice to senior executive teams?

Wife to Consultant: You were never in any of my wildest dreams!


Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.



About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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