The post-inspection doldrums

  • Published
  • By Maj. Maria Roberts
  • 9th Logistics Readiness Squadron
It has now been more than six months since the 9th Reconnaissance Wing' s OUTSTANDING Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI) and three months since the EXCELLENT Logistics Compliance Assessment Program (LCAP). In a short period of time, the 9th RW proved to Air Combat Command and the Air Force what we already knew...we are the best there is! It's not hubris, it's a matter of fact. With that being said, we do not have the luxury of resting on our laurels because one of the most perilous hazards awaits us...Complacency. Merrian-Webster Dictionary defines complacency as "self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies." Complacency, by its very nature, is insidious and subtle. It creeps into your workplace and begins its slow advance to undermine your success. Think about all the time you spent preparing for those inspections, the checklists, the databases, the checks, and the re-checks. Those processes and your desire to succeed made you and your organization better. However, as the stress associated with inspections fades, so too does the important human factor of performance.

Dr. Terry Tolleson, an aviation consultant, compares humans to rubber bands in terms of our performance needs. We seek a balance between stress and relaxation with maximum performance existing in the realm of "creative tension." "Creative tension is like shooting a rubber band -- stretch, aim, and fire. If there is a lack of tension, the rubber band flubs and falls short of its mark. Pull too hard or create too much tension and the rubber band snaps! But with the right tension...the rubber band will find its target." Aviation and maintenance safety have long identified complacency as a critical human factor in accidents. It is our natural inclination to reduce our analytical fervor when we perceive we are not being measured or processes become repetitive. How many of us go on "autopilot" as we drive home from work, our minds rehashing the day until we realize we've pulled into the driveway with very little memory of the trip we just made. How many cars did you pass where the drivers were doing the exact same thing? Complacency will happen; it is our inability to recognize and mitigate it that presents the greatest danger.

Drs. Karen Marais and Nancy Leveson addressed complacency in successful organizations. When success follows success, we tend to question less and accept more, opening the door for complacency to enter our workplaces. Even when there is a decrease in oversight, accidents or error rates don't immediately increase. It is difficult for an organization to recognize complacency until a serious deviation occurs. Just because a negative event hasn't surfaced, does not mean that the error chain hasn't already begun. However, this doesn't have to be the path we follow!

So what can you do? It is the responsibility of every Airman to fight the insidious growth of complacency. From the newest employee to the most senior leader, your individual obligation requires you to continuously search for better ways to do your job and hold others to standards. Leadership will monitor risk and ensure the appropriate level of oversight is in place. For individuals and units, set new performance goals that require you to develop your skills and question the status quo. Adherence to Air Force Instructions, Technical Orders and checklists provides a framework from where you can creatively and safely innovate. Last year you proved you were the best. Are you willing to let those gains go?