Communicating Between Organisations

John FRANKLIN • 20 January 2021
in community Air Operations
1 comment

This is a sub article to the master article on Resilience and it will consider good practices for communications between organisations.  

In these challenging times, not only is communication a challenge within organisations but things are made more difficult in aviation because no one company can operate alone. We rely heavily on safe and effective interactions between organisations - hence the importance of good communications. 

A starting point - what ICAO offers us on this topic 

As a starting point on this topic, it is worth looking at ICAO Doc 10144. This document advises organisations as follows:

Identifying interfaces and establishing channels for communication provides access to expert opinion, which is valuable in understanding the available information in a dynamic situation. Responding under a crisis situation may require qualitative decision-making using a risk management approach and asking practical questions (e.g. What supporting evidence is available?, What are the consequences of alternative options?, How will delays in decisions impact?, What is the risk tolerability for the specific situation?, What are the available resources?).

The need to understand the challenges that others face

In addition to these points from ICAO, these interfaces and communication channels should be identified and used by organisations to understand the different circumstances in which other organisations are now operating. For example, whether there have been personnel changes, issues accessing or repairing equipment, or whether changes in one organisation have an effect on another organisation’s risk assessment.

The nature of communication has changed during the crisis. As a result, organisations and individuals should adjust their expectations regarding communication. For instance, the people with whom you communicate may have changed because:

  • Staff changes mean that the previous point of contact is no longer in post;
  • You may be communicating with a new organisation, both in terms of aviation organisations and public health; and
  • Changing operational demands mean that you frequently communicate with an organisation that used to work almost independently.

Therefore, the content and timing of communications needs to take account of these new people not knowing everything that you would normally expect them to know, so they may not realise the significance of what is said and might not know how to respond. It may also take longer to get in touch with people, by which time issues may have been forgotten, superseded or may have become urgent.

Some communication challenges in the times of COVID

The means of communication has also changed. For those still in their normal place of work, whether an aircraft, airport or control centre, medical face masks and face shields are often worn. For office workers, remote working may have become permanent or at least significantly more frequent. The consequence is fewer face to face conversations, and that facial expressions and non-verbal communication is lost.

There is an increasing reliance on online meetings and written exchanges. For remote workers, where communication always takes place in the same location, instead of meeting in an appropriate room, or at your desk, it is more difficult to recall the conversation and the decisions that were made. As a result of these factors and others, communication needs to clearly address:

  • Know: what you want people to know about any changes or new situations;
  • Feel: how you want them to feel when they have read/ digested it, and most importantly; and
  • Do: what do you actually want them to do with the information that you have given to them.

Comments (1)

Conor Nolan

Great article John. As we steam into a second year of COVID impact, many if not all aviation entities have seen experienced and well connected team members retire or otherwise depart. As part of the RNO process every organisation needs to include communication gaps in their risk assessments, to ensure critical lines of contact for Safety, Security, Compliance and especially Emergency Response, have not lapsed in the dormant period due to departure of key personnel.

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