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Safety Chart: How to Monitor Risk Management Tasks in Aviation SMS

Posted by Christopher Howell on Jul 6, 2019 6:07:00 AM Find me on:

What Is Task Delegation in Aviation Risk Management

Safety Chart: How to Monitor Risk Management Tasks in Aviation SMSProper task delegation in aviation safety management systems (SMS) is critical for the efficiency and success of aviation risk management processes. An SMS implementation revolves around:

  • Designing risk management processes;
  • Implementing processes;
  • Monitoring processes; and
  • Reacting to exceptions discovered during system monitoring processes.

Consequently, project management is an extremely important element of any aviation safety manager’s job. From the very beginning of the SMS implementation, there are are too many items for one person to manage effectively by themselves. Consequently, the accountable executive will delegate many of these SMS tasks, including:

  • Conduct initial gap analysis;
  • Review gap analysis and develop SMS implementation plan;
  • Provide SMS training to employees;
  • Write and review relevant SMS policies and procedures;
  • Draft the SMS manual; etc.

These tasks need to be managed for obvious reasons to have a successful SMS implementation.

Related Aviation SMS Implementation Articles

SMS Success Requires Effective SMS Task Management

An SMS implementation centers around system design, system monitoring and developing a healthy, responsive safety culture. Risk management processes revolve around receiving inputs from the myriad systems and stakeholders. These inputs are managed according to your SMS' documented risk management processes. For very small organizations with very few safety inputs, managing an SMS' many moving parts is understandably less challenging than for larger operations.

In an aviation SMS, task delegation originates with safety managers and operational department heads that are overseen by the accountable executive. It’s critical that accountable executives equip the aviation safety managers with the proper tools for delegation and monitoring of related SMS tasks. The alternative will be:

  • Failed SMS implementation; or
  • Paper SMS (check-the-box SMS); or
  • SMS implementations with chronic substandard safety performance.

There are several underlying reasons why task delegation is such an important skill for safety management teams to develop:

  • SMS implementations have many diverse moving parts that all contribute to safety outcomes;
  • These moving parts are far beyond the capacity for one person to manage;
  • Proper task delegation actively involves the whole organization, and creates more resilient"system dependence" rather than vulnerable “single person dependent” aviation SMS; and
  • Actively involving the whole organization creates a resilient SMS with a healthier safety culture.

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SMS Task Management Common SMS Challenge

Many people aren’t adept at task delegation – it’s a skill that requires both natural intuition and experience. For managers who struggle with task delegation management, having visual charts and automated notifications will play a major role in helping them develop their delegation skills. Visual charts are a common feature in modern, low-cost, commercially available SMS database products. They are relatively inexpensive to adopt and can reduce the risk considerably to SMS performance.

Aviation safety chart risk management task delegation

Performance monitoring dashboards have multiple charts that pull information from various SMS' systems, such as:

  • Safety reporting system;
  • Auditing system;
  • SMS training system; and
  • Risk management system.

Dashboard charts are useful for providing safety management teams with actionable, fact-based decision-making information in a single view. The alternative would be to review each individual system, search for actionable data. This would prove to be very inefficient.

Within an SMS database, managers can access safety performance charts that pull data in real-time, thereby increasing organizational risk management efficiency. The SMS performance monitoring dashboard typically shows organization-related charts, but it can also hold charts that are specific to the logged-in user. For example, the chart at the right shows safety tasks I've assigned to other employees.

Having this chart in my personal SMS dashboard allows me to keep my safety tasks at the forefront of my consciousness. There will be less chance that I neglect these safety tasks when they are in my face each time I log into the SMS database.

Related Aviation SMS Performance Monitoring Charts

Why This Chart Is Important

The Items I Assigned To Others safety chart is a great visual cue for being able to quickly and easily monitor tasks that have been delegated. This chart shows a handful of the following items that you (as a manager) have assigned to other people:

  • Reported safety issues to manage (with corrective actions);
  • Corrective actions and preventive actions that others have to complete for safety issues that I manage;
  • Safety meetings to be managed by another person;
  • Aviation SMS audits and inspections to manage;
  • Newsletters to be created; and
  • Emergency Drills to be managed.

All of the above elements address at least one of the 4 Pillars of Aviation SMS. Each of the listed items shows you the essential elements of the delegated task:

  • The type of task;
  • The name and ID of the task;
  • The date assigned and deadline; and
  • Overdue items are highlighted in red.

With this chart a manager can easily monitor delegated tasks and assess whether further action is required on his/her part to ensure that tasks are completed on time.

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What This Chart Reveals about Your Aviation Risk Management Efficiency

Aviation risk management isn’t simply practiced by management – it is the effort of every user at every level within the organization. When we are looking at the Items I Assigned To Others safety chart, we need to consider that this chart reflects:

  • How well you are staying on top of delegated tasks (e.g. making sure they remain on time);
  • How well your employees are managing their own tasks (task management); and
  • What communication and management efficiency is as a whole.

When delegated tasks are constantly running overdue (turning red), it reflects a breakdown in either:

  • Your task delegation abilities;
  • Your task delegation monitoring; and/or
  • Other employees’ task management abilities.

Moreover, by monitoring this chart you will be able to see which type of operations require the most amount of your time. Operational department heads are the SMS process owners. These department heads are assigned safety issues and will naturally be assigning corrective actions and preventive actions (CPAs) to employees under their charge to mitigate the risk presented by the reported safety issues.

An operational department head will find that task delegation for their assigned safety issues is mostly related to the corrective actions. Safety Managers may find an equal distribution of task delegation across all elements of the safety program.

In short, this chart subtly reflects your role in the company by showing what you are managing.

Related Aviation SMS Performance Monitoring Charts

How Is This Aviation Safety Chart Created

Aviation safety chart risk management task delegation

To create this chart, having a professionally designed aviation safety database is absolutely recommended. Another alternative is to have an integrated software program that can pull task status data from multiple systems; however, this system is not as flexible as using a central SMS database to manage all SMS documentation requirements under one system.

Primarily this is because to create this chart you need to be able to

  • Automatically monitor what your task delegations are;
  • Allow user-friendly access to users assigned to these tasks to update the status of their assigned tasks;
  • Monitor information about each category of potentially delegated items; and
  • Pull together data from many different systems that inherently possess delegatable tasks.

Spreadsheets and point solutions simply lack the ability to either:

  • Efficiently track this information in real time;
  • Allow employees to easily update their assigned task status; or
  • Communicate the status of many different delegatable elements needed to create this chart.

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How This Chart Relates to Aviation SMS Program Requirements

Each aviation SMS implementation is tasked with having a functional SMS in all areas of the organization, and not simply an SMS on paper. It is the accountable executive who is responsible for regularly reviewing organizational safety performance and directing actions necessary to address substandard safety performance. In order to fulfill this responsibility, managers need an easy way to manage and track assigned tasks.

This SMS performance monitoring chart ensures that the following functional elements of an SMS are happening:

  • That safety issues are actually being reported, delegated, and managed;
  • That managers are successfully creating and completing CPA tasks; and
  • That the SMS' promotional elements are actually operating (such as meetings, newsletters, etc.).

A safety program that is non-functional, and only exists as a showpiece, will have delegated items charts that are mostly blank. In most cases, these shoddy SMS implementations will not even have these capabilities to easily track assigned tasks. However, this may not always be the case.

There are accountable executives who acquire SMS data management tools early in the SMS with the expectation of full implementation. But then "life happens." "Life" has a way of destroying the best-laid plans. A key employee quits or the safety manager is not capable of managing the SMS due to either lack of training or worse yet, incompetence. The point is that if your SMS performance is not adequate today, you can turn it around. Granted, it may take three to five years for your SMS implementation to start bearing fruit, but it is better to have SMS data management tools early in the SMS implementation than later.

Acquiring adequate SMS data management tools early in the SMS ensures that your organization has the capability to collect, store and retrieve historical safety performance data to practice predictive risk management processes later. As your SMS matures, you will have new opportunities to take advantage of. Unfortunately, if you don't use your tools, your future risk management capabilities will be drastically limited.

Related Aviation SMS Performance Monitoring Charts

Final Thought: Other Related Safety Charts

A couple of similar dashboard charts that provide further aviation risk management insights are:

Are you tracking key performance indicators (KPIs)? Do you know how to set KPIs? What are the best practices for managing your KPIs. Here are some useful resources that can be used by all aviation safety professionals, including the operational department heads.

KPIs should be related to your safety goals and objectives. Check out these excellent KPI resources.

Download Aviation KPIs Resources

Published July 2019. Last updated in June 2021.

File:Bombardier Global 7500 at EBACE 2019, Le Grand-Saconnex (EB190309).jpg by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS  

Topics: 2-Safety Risk Management

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