Chapter 16: Human Factors Practice in Military Aviation: On Time and On Target

by Ben Cook and Ryan Cooper

Practitioner summary

The tactical application of human factors (HF) in a military aviation context presents practitioners with an array of challenges and opportunities to enhance operational effectiveness and safety outcomes. Military commanders require pragmatic, culturally appropriate and solution-focused support that is both on time and on target. Importantly, HF support that is either off time or off target more often than not misses the opportunity to influence command decision-making and inform action. Success as an HF practitioner requires more than competence. It stems from the capacity to build trust and a working alliance with commanders that is based on mutual respect, frank and forthright dialogue, compromise and a client-centred agenda that recognises the commander and the commander’s team as the experts who hold the keys to any solution.


Chapter quotes

“The operational environment of our military forces is arguably one of the most rewarding and challenging domains for applied HF. The opportunity to work with advanced technology and complex systems, in combination with an intelligent, motivated, disciplined and highly trained workforce, is an attractive recipe for any budding HF practitioner.”

“…the general, and sometimes vague principles, theories and tools of HF must be translated in order to deliver tailored solutions that are aligned to the culture, objectives, and resource constraints of the organisation.”

“Trust is a key theme for this chapter and refers to how we (as practitioners) build and sustain high levels of trust, both through the delivery of results as well as by placing the local commanders at the centre of HF solutions.”

“In the ideal world, a two- to three-month window to prepare for the intervention would have been optimal – but optimal is often neither practical nor achievable. So it is a matter of doing what you can with the resources at hand to deliver a 60 per cent solution on time and, in doing so, establishing a solid foundation for further enhancements over the longer-term.”

“There are no clear-cut answers, only workable solutions grounded in evidence.”

Practitioner reflections

Reflection by Dave Moore (co-author of Chapter 27)

This context strongly contrasts with agriculture (with its largely informal structure) but the importance of building trust, working as a team and mutually respecting each others’ knowledge, experience and values are absolutely key to making any progress. It is important to place local farmers at the centre of HF solutions. What is said about the “drive to simplify the [safety] process and bypass some formal procedures’ is so very typical of what happens in agriculture. The large gap between regulations and practice also applies.

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About stevenshorrock

I am a systems ergonomist/human factors specialist and work psychologist with a background in practice and research in safety-critical industries. My main interest is human and system behaviour in the context of safety-related organisations. I seek to enable improvement via a combination of systems thinking, design thinking and humanistic thinking. I am a Chartered Ergonomist and Human Factors Specialist with the CIEHF and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. I currently work as a human factors and safety specialist in air traffic control in Europe. I am also Adjunct Associate Professor at University of the Sunshine Coast, Centre for Human Factors & Sociotechnical Systems. I blog in a personal capacity. Views expressed here are mine and not those of any affiliated organisation, unless stated otherwise. You can find me on twitter at @stevenshorrock
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One Response to Chapter 16: Human Factors Practice in Military Aviation: On Time and On Target

  1. Pingback: The Varieties of Human Work | Humanistic Systems

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