Having finished reading Black Box Thinking, it strikes me that there is a lot still to be learned about the way we deal with failures and set backs. Putting on the news this morning, the big talking point was the incident at Old Trafford. The response to the evacuation and abandonment of the game was full of the expected puns, Red faces at Old Trafford, and the language of instant blame. Apparently the local Police and Crime Commissioner has called it an "outrage" and there's going to be a full enquiry.
Well the enquiry is clearly a good idea, but an outrage? Well I'm not so sure that's the right description, and what's more it immediately puts everyone in defensive mode. Why not start from lessons learned? Clearly the evacuation was handled pretty well, and the security obviously worked because they found the suspect package and death with it. Yes, a lot of people were very inconvenienced, but the system worked. Shouldn't we at least acknowledge that.
Somebody missed something after the training event. That much is obvious, but surely the way forward is to look at the protocols involved in accounting for the training devices and adjust them. Learn a lesson for the future, don't start getting outraged and look for someone to blame.
We've just got back from a holiday in Portugal. Yesterday was a long day of travelling, and while not in the league of an abandoned football match because of a suspicious package left by mistake, we had our fair share of frustrations along the way. It felt like we spent most of the day in a queue of some sort.
Faro airport is not the best equipped international airport I've ever travelled through, and it's not the worst, even of those I've experienced. Long delays getting people through passport control and security meant our flight home was delayed by almost an hour. There was quite a lot of British outrage at the "shambles" and "chaos" at the airport. We had issues when we arrived too, mainly with passport control again. Faro has about 5 of the new biometric passport readers on both inward and outward sides. Sadly only three were working, and one crashed. Anyway people got stuck at passport control and we missed our slot for take-off and had to wait for the delayed passengers and then for a new slot. I dare say there will be a few strongly worded letters and emails being written this mooring to the trail company complaint about all this and demanding compensation.
But who will be looking at the events and trying to learn lessons and then fix the problems? At Stansted there were 15 biometric gates and we still had to queue and there were still problems. While adding more terminals would clearly help, it's not the whole solution.
The interesting thing was that when we were on the aircraft waiting for the delayed passengers, the announcements made were very clearly blaming ground staff at the airport, just to make sure we understood who was to blame. It's nice to know it's always someone else's fault! Okay, so in this case the issue was with the airport, but I'd rather hope that the travel companies and airlines would look at how they can support the airport, perhaps with investment, to add more terminals, and to make sure they are working. Rather than blaming the people, look for a solution that will support the future use of the airport.
So Black Box Thinking is worth reading if it makes you change the way you see and deal with failure. If you are not willing to become a learner or if you're not interested in solutions that don't start with "who can I blame", then maybe you should seek out a book about how to complain instead.