Thursday, 7 July 2011


Black boxes and checklists


Black box flight recorderLets look at two elements of the learning system in aircraft - the black box recorder, and the pre-flight checklist - as analogies for elements of Knowledge management.

The black box recorder is a raw data-capture tool, that captures data within flight.

The pre-flight checklist is a distillation of data from millions of successful flights and thousands of accidents, designed to give pilots the knowledge of successful flight procedures.

The pre-flight checklist is linked to, and is an outcome of, results from black box recorders. However there is a complex process between the two; of data review, root cause analysis, solution-finding and validation, derivation of new process, and distillation into a checklist. Very few black box recordings are ever reviewed - only those from extraordinary events, because it is the extraordinary eents that create the new knowledge.

It can be tempting to approach project knowledge capture through black-box-recorder-like techniques. Live meeting capture, for example. Or live capture of project decisions. Or ensuring all project records are filed and passed on. These approaches create a lot of data, but create little knowledge, and would be massively labour-intensive to interrogate. Expecting future projects to learn from this material is a bit like expecting pilots to learn directly from black box recorders.

So if you are applying these techniques, invest also in the processes of data review, root cause analysis, solution-finding and validation, derivation of new process, and distillation into guidance for future projects, whether this is a checklist or a wiki or a guidance document.

No comments:

Blog archive