Recently we took time to recall not only why we should listen to what the flight attendant is telling us about the safety features on our aircraft, but also what 2009’s Miracle on the Hudson tells us about corporate compliance.
Author and former financial trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to rare but massively important events like the one Captain Sullenberger encountered as black swans.
Today, the ethics and compliance equivalent of black swan plane crashes are becoming more frequent given both the proliferation of new laws and regulations, as well as the complexity of third party relationships in nearly every business along with the cascading risk they create. Regulators are looking to raise penalties above the level of the cost of doing business, making them transformative events. Even if you prevail, the legal expense of defending yourself likely could have paid for, many times over, the training that could have prevented or mitigated your crisis. The reputational damage is often immeasurable.
Further, the events leading to corporate black swans are not so uncommon as Captain Sullenberger’s Canada Geese. They are made up of day-to-day problems that go un-checked, that permeate an organization causing no discernible harm until suddenly a crisis brings them to the surface. They were always lurking there below, but it seemed ok to save on training with a check-the-box solution, there hadn’t been a serious problem…. yet. In calm waters, that perspective can become dangerous. Hasn’t compliance training commoditized? Shouldn’t the prevailing criteria be price?
The drawbacks of cheap, or more importantly low quality training, are obvious: the ability to say in court that you implemented it, and no more. Regulators and courts are predictably now looking beyond whether training was available, to whether it was of sufficient quality. Once training is held up defensively, the scrutiny level escalates to measures unrecognizable from an RFP process where the vendor who occupied the lowest price column prevailed.
This scrutiny comes down on the aviation industry too. Earlier this year, the crash landing of a flight to San Francisco raised new questions on the quality of pilot training. The National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t concluded its investigation, none-the-less media outlets have been quick to note the pilot had never flown a Boeing 777 into San Francisco, and had a bare 43 hours’ experience in that type of aircraft. Former trainers for the airline have been interviewed on news broadcasts and experts across the industry queried on the minutia of how flight crews learn the basics of getting you and I around safely. Similar waves of questions came after a tragic crash into the Atlantic during a storm the same year as the Miracle on the Hudson, and a missed runway in Indonesia earlier this year.
More training is not necessarily the answer. Pilots can’t train in simulators non-stop. They’ve got to carry passengers at some point.
But better training can be made more efficient, relevant and valuable. That’s what NAVEX Global believes.
Your employees, leadership and business partners are flying your company’s reputation and financial solvency daily.
You can’t predict when an accumulation of negative everyday events or something unexpected requires a Chesley Sullenberger. But did you train one?