If you were invited to review a pile of accident reports from a company that utilizes a good investigation process, you will see that several factors contribute to most accidents. A very consistent error is related to human behavior. Accidents happen most frequently when people feel rushed, or when they are frustrated by the problems associated with their work.
This makes sense, especially given the level of automation that exists today. When things are running well, employees are monitoring the process and making sure there are adequate materials coming in and product is taken away. When the process starts to fail in some way, stress goes up, as does the interaction with the process. This presents an opportunity for mistakes or accidents.
I spent a good part of Thursday traveling, and saw a lot of frustrated people and unusual procedures that only added to peoples’ frustrations. The flight was a Delta flight, a Canadair jet that requires planeside check-in of a typical carry on bag. The smaller Canadair jets seat 48 people, and are boarded from the tarmac. You leave your bag on the cart next to the steps, and when you get to the destination you retrieve it the same way. This was a larger jet that used the jetway to board. So here in Atlanta, when you get off, people line the jetway until the bags are brought up to the jetway 2 or 3 at a time.
Atlanta was my destination, but people with connections were not happy. This is when the behavior got bad. A hot jetway full of people (August in Atlanta, remember) and they start crowding the little doorway to look down the stairs and see when their bag is coming up. If your bag did come up, and you weren’t crowding the front, you wouldn’t know. So people were upset with the process, now they are upset with each other.
Then there is the train you take from the terminal to baggage claim and the airport exit. There are three long escalators, and when the train doors open it looks like the post at the Kentucky Derby! Where are these people running to? Seriously, I timed the difference between the guy who sprinted up the escalator and my passive ride, and it was about 30 seconds. What will he do with that time? Can’t save it, time doesn’t work that way.
If he was headed to a family emergency, I hope he got there safely and in time for what he needed to do. But the hurry, the rushing, the dodging around people will, at some point, cost a person more time than they saved. And may cost more than just time.
So, the next time you feel hurried or catch yourself trying to somehow make up for lost time, don’t forget to breathe. Ask yourself if it will really make a difference. Time is a great equalizer, no one gets more minutes in an hour than anyone else, and no one gets less.
Do you rush through things, or work yourself into a rushing pattern when you don’t really need to? It might be a habit worth changing.
Let’s be careful out there.