B+P Insights: «High Performance Team»

Humans in the operational – The Human Factors


 1. Background

Today the airplanes work. They do not fall down because of mechanical errors. In the 1980’s they did that to a greater extent. In the end of the 1970’s the American spacefaring nation NASA introduced new requirements and procedures for flight security based on experiential learning which NASA has conducted during the Apollo program. Back then the vision was “Before this decade ends, we will put a man on the moon and make him return safely.”


2. Human Factors

Today the reason for the mistake is almost always a human operational error, “The Human Factors”. This means that in most cases, the reason is interpersonal lack of communication and/or evaluations. To prevent human mistakes NASA has developed a system called Crew Resource Management (“CRM”). The CRM system and structure are under constant review and development. It is built on certification procedures and today CRM is a standard within international aviation.


3. High Performance Team

In high performance teams, helicopter teams in Norwegian Air Ambulance (NLA), and the armed Marine Soldiers (with reference to the report shown in www.dn.no/magasinet/marinejegerne ) they have flat organizational structures, that provides a clear administration.

This involves mutual respect for the different disciplines and a high degree of tolerance for reciprocal corrections. Reciprocal corrections mean that a team can and should make adjustments to another team with another discipline and responsibility, when it can be perceived as crucial. A culture is created to make sure that every team member can and should have a legitimate vote regarding the challenges that the team is willing to address, and a common understanding of the goals to be achieved. Therefore, a deeply rooted trust and openness between team members are essential. Such teams must agree on the same understanding of such goals, not as a group where individuals have their own meanings and/or prioritization for the goal achievement.


4. The recruitment process

A recruitment process should focus on building “High-Performance-Teams” when recruiting team members. Recruitment processes are carefully made and pay regard to the special characteristics and abilities of the candidates. It is decisive that the individual’s ability to make the team good and the ability to solve the tasks which the team is set to solve, move on to the individual agendas.

A careful evaluation of personal characteristics of each member is completed.

Business expertise is only one selection criteria in the process of determining a match with the team. More important is personal qualities and social such as the ability to use positive ways of communication. A candidate, that has an academic CV but lack the personal skills described above, will not be hired as an employee.

This should also be clear when hiring leaders. It is necessary to build a leader team and by that wind up leader teams. This can be radical, but often necessary.


5. Cross communication and team culture

In high performance team there is a good understanding of cross communication withf reciprocal corrections and cross-functional competences as key ingredients.

Reciprocal correction: Give positive correction across different disciplines and responsibilities. But never deny work and responsibility from the one that corrects. This builds a professional and cross-functional insights for the team, which calls for safety, trust and openness.

High performance team and leader team consists of different professions/ specialties and they have to complement each other and respect each other. Respect cannot be decided, but is built through trust and openness. What does one do when the delivery does not go well? When mistakes are made or someone fail to deliver satisfactory?

  • That is where the team culture come into play. The fact that teams develop different variations reciprocal corrections. Marine Soldiers have regular meetings which means careful debriefings.
  • For this reason, you should develop a mentor culture, as it is all natural to be mentors to each other in the leader team, where you have a great accept of reciprocal correction.
  • To improve each other. To be able and to build generosity.
    • 1-7 rule: 1 bad response should be followed by 7 good in order to build a positive reciprocal correction team.
    • Therefore, 7-1. Seven good responses before the focus on the one bad.
  • Seaman advice. By the Marine Soldiers all points of view are legitimate because everyone are legitimate members of the team – this means flat organization structure.
  • All members are and must be legitimate members of the team because they are recruited on the basis of the right skills and qualities. This means that every single member has the expected competences needed for his/her position. It has come so far in the NLA and the Marine Soldiers that there is a “just fair” factor in the selection program. Professional competence is the basis. The ones that do not have the skills and quality that are being phased out, which means the ones that are not becoming members of the team.
  • The need to phase out a person is essential regarding costs in money and human costs. Therefore, both NLA and the Marine Soldiers the meaning of recruiting the right people with respect, skills and abilities besides professional competences. Capacity and skills has to be very well-documented in the recruitment process. This can be more decisive than professional expertise to secure functional teams.


6. Goals and objectives

  • Goals should be well balanced and be achievable. They must also be temporary.
  • This is also valid in the business world. Often when the goal has been achieved new goals have to be defined otherwise the empirical knowledge shows that the development of the industry flattens off and in worst case has to be liquidated.
  • Often many large firms with charismatic leaders have made mistakes within this area.
    • For example, Janne Carlson in SAS. SAS should have been ranked as best airline company in 1990. They achieved this in 2986. So what then, they said in SAS? Since SAS has been struggling to get back as the leading airline company?
    • When the US with J.F. Kennedy as president created vision and goals of having the first man on the moon and make sure, that he came back safe. This gathers the US to achieve the goal. After the astronaut was back home safe the US has been struggling with the interaction and maybe in the end lost some hegemony, which means that they have gone back as the leading superpower of the world.

Many leader has been able to define new great unifying and lading visions and objectives or «Missions». To keep this going for decade after decade is a huge challenge. There are examples of some that manage to do this, but it is not the majority.


7. Team development and mentoring


  • Always use WE-form in the team
  • Outwardly always = WE
  • WE creates loyalty
  • WE = happiness
  • «I-persons» (be self-sufficient etc.) can create bad group empathy, these people should seek out of the teams.
  • Debrief (the Seaman advice): No technical check lists, but:
    • How was the performance for you?
    • Use reflection techniques
    • The soft values create the most value
    • It is the value elements that are the important

Technical check lists can always be improved by technical specialist.

Aristoteles statement that W. Churchill also utilized for many years in his many speeches during the Second World War.

  • “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”
  • «To be a good leader you have to be a good follower”. (W.Churchill).
    • A great leader is a great listener
    • A great mentor in the team does not take the honor himself/herself, but he/she supports and stimulates etc.

Mentor advice:

  • Make the leader meeting become good mentor advices.
  • To obtain good mentor advices use elements of what is described above.
  • Underline the importance of taking the time to talk to each other.
  • Create a leader team – teams create trust and openness – and delivery power.
  • Common goal.


Frode Ranhoff, Partner


Share this on...
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn