In the first of a new regular column, Arend van Campen of TankTerminalTraining emphasises the importance of teamwork
When a football team wants to win the championship it will spend a lot of time, many hours per week, preparing for the next game. This is what training is. The team needs to form a strong connection, unity and cohesion to operate as a machine; in systems thinking terms, this would be a system that constantly improves itself.
The training programmes use feedback as a method of controlling a system by re-inserting into it the results of past performance, which in fact is called learning. The team then functions as a living system, adjusting to opponents, adapting to circumstance and always learning from its environment in order to stay flexible, resourceful and finally victorious.
TankTerminalTraining (TTT) incorporates a similar line of thinking in its training programmes and this improves the overall results dramatically. In order to understand how systems operate and survive in real life we always ask this question: how would you behave if you were stranded alone on an island?’ This usually starts up a new way of self-reflection and from that starting point TTT focuses on commitment, awareness, knowledge, skill and – ultimately – wisdom. There is a saying: ‘a wise person comes prepared’ and from that idea onward training towards a winning team proves its value in making people better at what they do.
In management terms it is important to remember that “rules and regulations impair an organisation’s functioning”. What this means is that unthinking compliance to rules or regulations can jeopardise the individual’s powers of reason, with compliance just becoming a matter of ticking off a checklist. But people do have reason, as well as their self-esteem, their caution and their prudence as natural survival mechanisms. All they have to realise is that they are actually on that island where they have no other means but to train themselves by saying aloud: S.T.O.P! S: Stop! Where am I? T: Think! Who am I and what can I do? O: Observe! What is available? P: Plan! Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 to survive!
Learning and using these four simple words would prevent many incident or accidents, but people need to be taught first to understand themselves. TTT is not just training and educating people on technical or operational matters, because as you are probably aware 80 per cent of incidents and accidents happen due to human factors. TTT understands that a winning team can only be created by training them physically and mentally.
The metaphor we like to use is to form a tank terminal orchestra where melody and harmony can only be produced by the cooperation of all the musicians. These musicians need their personal motivation to learn how to play their instruments well. TTT has noticed that management does not always emphasise individual responsibility. Sometimes, when TTT asks the question “Are you in control, really in control?” the answer is not convincing; “Don’t ask me. I just work here!”
When this is the case, the operation of the terminal may be vulnerable despite the growing mass of rules, regulations and checklists. People are the terminal! Behaviour and information decide the sustainability of the business model, so have people learn all the time and win!
This is the first in a new series of articles by Arend van Campen, founder of TankTerminalTraining. More information on the company’s activities can be found at www.tankterminaltraining.com.
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, tweeted recently: ‘Wake up world. We are killing our planet. Climate Action now!’ He meant that our economy, industries and politics are not exactly cooperative in regard to changing pace and curbing climate change in time to avoid entropy and ultimately chaos. The way our banks use algorithms to outpace human trade drives everything else towards maximum financialisation, literally using up future resources for the sake of profits now. This obviously cannot last and, according to recent article in the New York Times, jeopardises humanity’s very survival.
As a researcher on what can be sustainable, durable and can be continued, I developed a method to measure sustainability. This valuable tool allows an organisation able to predict the future and therefore can adjust its course timely. As I am writing this for you, readers of HCB magazine, I’d like to propose that you apply this tool to your company’s products and services and ask yourself if they are negatively or positively interdependent. This means that products or services that would benefit a few at the cost of others (people, environment, etc), should be redesigned, reworked or replaced by those that are positively interdependent, meaning they are useful and sustainable for everyone and everything. This, in my view, would create millions of jobs and would benefit politics, economics, the environment and repair the ecological balance on which we all depend. Path dependency of an organisation means that products and services which may be harmful are not changed voluntarily, but often await laws to prevent them. I agree with António that it is too late for that.
Two weeks ago I spoke to the renowned physicist Dr Fritjof Capra in Innsbruck and he said that organisations that are unwilling to learn and adapt are dead. Biology confirms that an organism that is unable to learn from and interact with its environment can be declared dead because it has stopped metabolising.
Looking for example at companies or politicised organisations we can observe that they are often ‘path dependent’. Inflexible entities that are unable to learn, adapt and adjust to constantly renewing variations created from interaction with people, environment, planet or universe, cannot survive. This is a scientific fact.
How to proceed? Well, there is ample information and science. All such organisations have to do is to start listening by weighing ‘all’ information, even that information which would contradict ulterior motivation towards pre-planned and expected goals. Life in business or in politics can only be continued and remain sustainable by asking ‘where to now?’ and by learning everything that will be useful to ensure their systems stays afloat.
The Greeks were right over 2000 years ago. They accepted that you can only sail a ship to the other side of the seas if you prepare well and are open to learn from the wind, water and tide. Antonio realises that people are not listening. Perhaps his tweets, and this column, are read by 190 UN member countries, but are they alive or nearing death?
This is the third in a new series of articles by Arend van Campen, founder of TankTerminalTraining. More information on the company’s activities can be found atwww.tankterminaltraining.com. Those interested in following up his invitation can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.