Neighbours, N.I.T.S and Team Leaders (#9)

I wasn't sure he was being serious so asked James to repeat what he just said. James, by the way, is both an Airline Pilot and my next door neighbour.

"Have you ever heard of N.I.T.S?" came the reply, with little facial indication that a punchline was imminent.

As I stood in my kitchen on Christmas Eve nursing a beer I reflected briefly on why I enjoyed James's company so much. He has, I'd argue, the perfect personality for a man you want flying a tin can containing you and your loved ones; not given to excitement, blessed with a level mood to the point where you just know that he'd glance across at the missing wing, the unconscious first officer beside him, the flames licking at his feet and follow the SOP protocols as cooly as a man deciding whether to order the chicken or the fish from the menu.

He's not aware of the fact but I've learned a lot from discussing checklists, problem solving and Crew Relationship Management (CRM) with him. On this Christmas Eve it turned out that N.I.T.S refers to Nature/Intention/Timing/Special and is intended to ensure that communication   between pilots and cabin crew is kept simple and unambigious. 

As a pilot, James's responsibility is to communicate the Nature of the problem, his Intention to countermeasure, when he's planning to act (Timing) and any Special instructions that the cabin crew need to be aware of. 

This got me thinking about the work I've frequently done with Team Leaders in improving the way they communicate with their teams and control their patch. The start-of-shift Team Brief/Huddle is an area where all of the 80 or so Team Leaders I've directly coached really benefit from some simple training. This 5 minute start of shift brief/huddle is too often a grisly post mortem of the last shift with little engagement of a team struggling to hear the Team Leader. What's the point of rehashing yesterday in detail as they were all there to live the misery first time around!

Instead, I coach a six step approach to delivering a meaningful, forward looking and engaging brief/huddle focusing on the things that might trip you up today (mainly around Quality or Safety change points). A simple example to illustrate:

A poor brief might include the line "Engineering are coming around sometime today to help with a problem"and take 3 seconds.

A strong brief might go like this:

"between 2 and 3pm today, Sandra from Engineering is coming on line to look at that jig, on your stage Dave, that keeps false passing the levers. He'll need to watch and talk to you for a few minutes so can you keep an eye out for that problem and let her know your thoughts?"

This loose 5W1H approach takes 9 seconds more but delivers a world of value. Dave won't be surprised or distracted later, we've engaged him in solving the problem and we're likely to get to root cause faster. A 9 seconds well spent I'd say.

So, in the New Year, get out and about and watch a Team Brief / Huddle or two. The Quality of this 5 minutes has the power to set up the day and is one of the few times where you want to have N.I.T.S

A final word on Change Points. In my opinion we can quickly give a Team Leader 3 simple skills, Change Point management being one of them. More on this next time.

Happy New Year


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