Training is expendable, until it’s not – PART I


September is the season for conferences, getting on the plane to get to them, listening to the flight attendant as they explain how the seatbelt works, what to do in the case of a loss of cabin pressure, and where the emergency exits are.

Many of us pay closer attention now than we did, thanks to events like the Miracle on the Hudson in 2009. So here’s something to ask yourself when you’re watching the safety presentation: what do today’s workplace compliance programs have in common with that famous water landing?

Good training matters.

Pilots train… a lot. The vast majority of it is for the monotonous brain numbing tasks that take us to and from places across the country and Earth. It’s meant to allow pilots to structure the everyday mess of getting things done on a plane to the point of being able to also handle the unusual and unexpected, keeping all of these from spiraling into the catastrophic. It’s time consuming, and needs to be budgeted for.

And then one day geese plow through each of your two jet engines, jamming them up over one of the most populous cities in the world.  There are 155 passengers on board, and no place to land.

Then the full range of training really matters.

Not only does the training matter, but features of the plane built for the daily – but capable of helping with the unlikely – become vital.

For Chesley Sullenberger III, as he piloted US Airways 1549 that day, it meant his past as a former flight instructor and time spent earning certifications mattered. He turned his Airbus A320 – equipped with a fly-by-wire system that gives greater control to pilots, especially with the jostles of engine failure – toward the Hudson River and improbably landed the aircraft safely so it floated until vessels arrived to rescue all on board.

Captain Sullenberger later testified he had not had specific flight simulation training for how to ditch a jet. But anyone following the events could conclude he had gotten more than enough on the sum of the problems he faced to take the right actions.

His experience, that of his co-pilot, the stewards, the flexibility of the fly-by-wire system – all are budget items that could have been cut to save a little on the bottom line. In fact, even without cutting, it’s easy to check-the-box on these items with low-cost alternatives, but miss the mark on true skill-building and meaningful protection. Wise trimming, until suddenly the downside of doing so is exponential.

We’ll expand on that thought in our next post discussing what Canada Geese-encountering jet engines tell us about black swans striking ethics and compliance officers.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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