Decision Making Models

We are reviewing Decision Making Models at the moment. On the 777, we’ve used FORDEC, which is very close to the European model, except we’ve replaced “Check” with “Communicate”, which may or may not have been a good thing. Other fleets in our airline are using GRADE or NMATE.

There are several reasons why Decision Making Models are in use. The popular notion is that there are some pilots who can’t make decisions, and need a model; just as there is a popular notion that some pilots are natural “decision makers” and no matter how complex the decision, they never need a model; the truth is perhaps somewhere in the middle.

Modern aircraft are both very complex and highly simplified. Information presentation systems, coupled with alerting and electronic checklists take what could be a very complex system and reduce it to essences that pilots can pretty easily deal with. There are a couple of problems with this though.

One of these is the Non Technical Skills requirement. Even after the Captain (or First/Second/Relief Officer) has reached a good decision based on complex information after risk analysis and implementation review – this has to be communicated to (and agreed to by) everyone else – this is better achieved when everyone is along for the ride, rather than told when you’ve reached the destination. Or at least, ideally it should. Some of the natural decision makers out there who aren’t necessarily thinking these things through methodically (consciously) but still coming up time and time again with the right decision – may not be the greatest of communicators.

Finally – there’s the QF32 factor. Where the problem is really bad and the information is so complex, so changing and so overwhelming, that a reasoned decision taking all factors into account allow the situation to develop fully to avoid impulsively rushing in – may not be possible. It’s get the aircraft on the ground time.

In any event – with a few models on the table (in the Group) – we’ve been trying to reach a consensus …

F O R – D E C

Facts

  • What is the full extent of the problem?
  • Gather all relevant Facts.
  • A problem which has been well defined at best usually suggests its own solution and at worst prevents the crew from going down the wrong path.
  • It is important to stay focused on defining and understanding the problem rather than rush to the solution.
  • There will often be more than just the one problem requiring a solution and they will all need to be carefully considered and then dealt with in order of priority.

Options

  • What options are available?
  • Define the different options you have, considering that there may be several possible options to facilitate a safe outcome.
  • Time can be considered as; critical, available and required. There are very few problems that require immediate action. In the vast majority of cases a considered and well developed plan is going to lead to a safe optimised resolution.
  • The use of open questions can assist in staying problem centred. “What do you think …?”

Risk/Benefit

  • What are the risks and benefits associated with each option?
  • With the given situation, what are the assessed risks in pursuing a course of action weighted against the perceived benefit?
  • With the given situation, do we return for an immediate landing overweight or do we take up the hold and jettison fuel?
  • With the given problem, do we land on the longer runway with a crosswind or the shorter runway with a headwind?

Decision

  • Which option have you decided on?
  • After spending an appropriate amount of time on the first three steps, the commander must eventually make a decision.
  • This is the step that many people instinctively leap to, however correct application of a management model will lead to a process driven solution that will have initially focused on accurately defining the problem, analysing the options before finally deciding on the solution.

Execute

  • Execute the selected option. Once the decision has been made, the plan must be put into action

Communicate

  • Communicate your intentions.
  • Once the plan has been executed, the commander must ensure that his intentions are communicated to all interested parties.
  • This will include the cabin crew and passengers within the aircraft, along with relevant agencies on the ground.

Irrelevantly, one special moment in all this has been finding out the various models that are around and in use. It’s been fascinating – here’s a sample. All models have their good and bad elements. Many share common ideals and drivers – since the problems all the models are trying to address are substantially similar.

DODAR (British Airways)
D – Diagnose
O – Options
D – Decide
A – Assign
R – Review

DECIDE (US FAA)
D – Detect
E – Estimate
C – Choose
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate

NMATE (Boeing)N – Navigate
M – Manage
A – Alternatives
T – Take Action
E – Evaluate

SAFE
S – State the Problem
A -Analyse the Problem
F – Fix the Problem
E – Evaluate the Result

GRADE
G – Gather Information
R – Review the Information
A – Analyse the (you guessed it) Information
D – Decide
E – Evaluate the Course of Action

FATE
F – Fly the Aircraft
A – Analyse the Alternatives
T – Take Action
E – Evaluate

RAISE
R – Review the problem
A – Analyse
I – Identify solutions
S – Select an Option
E – Evaluate

ADFP
A – Aircraft (Consider the Problem)
D – Destination (Appropriate)
F – Fuel (Sufficient)
P – People, Pax, ATC, Company etc.

3P’s
P – Perceive
P – Process
P – Perform

OODA
O – Observation
O – Orientation
D – Decision
A – Action

CLEAR
C – Clarify the problem
L – Look for data and share information
E – Evaluate different solutions
A – Act on your decisions
R – Review performance

PILOT
(this has to be the best one surely?)
P – Pool the facts
I – Identify the problem
L – Look for Solutions
O – Operate
T – Take Stock
(perhaps not)

SADIE (Emirates in the 90’s)
S – Share Information
A – Analyse Information
D – Develop the Best Solution
I – Implement your decision
E – Evaluate the Outcome

RCCSDAD
R – Recognise
C – Control the aircraft
C – Contain the emergency
S – Safe Flight
D – Decide
A – Act
D – Divert?

SOCS
S – Situation, define
O – Options
C – Consequences of actions
S – Select (an Action)

DESIDE
D – Detect
E – Estimate
S – Set Safety Objectives
I – Identify
D – Do
E – Evaluate

During the discussion the following models were advanced by the “Managers” I work with. I must admit I got at least halfway down them until I realised they were pulling my chain. Some of these require inside knowledge – next time you have Paul or Stu on the other end of a Beer, ask them.

A ssess the problem
P erform the correct memory item
P erform the correct checklist
L et ATC know what you are up to
E xecute the diversion

I nterrogate
P robe
A ssess
D ecide

B elt sign ON
E xamine the problem
S ound the alarm
T ell the cabin
P riorities
R isk assessment
A ction plan
C hecklist complete
T hreat and error management
I ndicate intent
C onsider the options
E xecute the plan

K now the problem
E xecute the diversion
N otify ATC
S ecure the aircraft
C hecklist complete
H old if required
A irport for diversion
I nform passengers
R eview the risk

What model does your airline use?