Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

What Are The Best Tests For Hiring and Promotion?

None of these are photos of me. They are also not effective for evaluating the potential performance or behavior of an employee.

Can you tell by looking?

In 1917, William F. Kemble, an engineer who was engaged in introducing standardized hiring and promotional tests for business and industry, wrote Choosing Employees By Test. (Industrial Management Library, The Engineering Magazine Company. New York.) Kemble was a strong advocate of the scientific and mathematical approach to business and industry. This was at a time when large businesses were using efficiency experts, vocationalists and labor standardizers--early versions of Human Resources staff.

Mr. Kemble believed that almost all knowledge, skills and aptitudes could be determined by a series of written and physical tests which could be administered in a relatively short amount of time and used as a basis for hiring and promotion.  Some of his ideas will sound familiar:

If employers so desire, the initial record found by the tests given to each applicant may be followed up by monthly reports of work accomplishments, all reduced to a card system. Upon these records can be based many decisions about employment, raises or promotions which would otherwise be done by guesswork or favoritism.

Unfortunately he mixed science and his personal opinions a great deal.  One of his tests involved having candidates for an executive position answer questions about the potential of scientific and engineering accomplishments. (Could there be a building ten times taller than the Woolworth Building? Will man ever be able to tunnel from Alaska to Asia? Will wireless power ever be developed for areoplanes? Will gold ever be transmuted from base metal?) The results of the tests as well as the way candidates acted as they were taking it, were ranked in this way: Idiot, Chaotic, Normal, Intelligent, Executive. (Which would you be?)

One of Kemble’s supposedly scientific tests involved comparing a photograph of a potential employee to lists of “common physical manifestations of mental and moral characteristics.” In this way he believed he could tell if a person was intelligent, a drunkard, petulant, lazy, moral, in good health, good with mathematics or any of dozens of other traits. He assigned points to each facial characterisic so the overall intelligence or morality of an applicant could be given a numerical rating.

The full-face and profile photos at the top of this article are part of such a test. He knew the people in the photographs and had a sample of one hundred good salesmen guess the answers to his questions. They had a 66% to 79% correct response rate. Thus, he reasoned, a potential salesperson should have a similarly correct rate of response.

These were the characteristics applicants matched to the photographs:

  • Quick in action.
  • Irritable.
  • Healthy.
  • Very temperate in drink.
  • Constant church goer.
  • Business person.
  • Artistic.
  • Saves money.
  • Highly educated.
  • Industrious worker.

Sadly for me, the correct answers weren’t provided! What do you think?

Kemble’s book has recently been scanned and published by Nabu Press, as having historical significance. However, I have an original edition, which I found in one of my old-book hunts years ago. It has 333 pages of small print, all focused on what he was sure was the future of employment testing. Some of it was logical and accurate and much of it was not.  He apparently did not write another book and also did not make enough of a mark on the world of business that he is cited in other sources. I feel badly about that because he sounded so earnest, dedicated and convinced. As a result, I wanted to honor him here by sharing his photo and a little bit about his work.  I hope he had a happy life, contributed to the happiness of the lives of others and felt he was successful. I wish that for you, too!

William Fretz Kemble (1874-?)

William Fretz Kemble
1874-?

June 26th, 2010 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 7 comments

John Mollison Interviews Old Guys and Draws Their Planes

Don Bryan and John Mollison

Lt. Col. Don Bryan, an Ace with the famous 352nd Fighter Group and John Mollison, Writer and Draw-er

The North American A-36 Apache, flown by Bill Creech.

The North American A-36 Apache. This was flown by Col. William T. "Bill" Creech, who flew 302 combat missions in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. He wrote a book about all of that and more: The 3rd Greatest Fighter Pilot. It's available through authorhouse.com.

F4U-42 Corsair.

Eugene "Red" James flew the F4U-42 Corsair on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. "Red" flew 136 combat missions in WWII and Korea. See the art on the nose of the plane? That signifiies being in the elite group, "The Checkerboarders."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Every Day A Memorial Day

A  few months back I met (by email) John Mollison, who had read an article I posted about the Burma Road. John is a a military historian and a tremendously gifted artist who uses that gift in an equally tremendous way. He draws, in meticulous detail, the planes of WW II pilots and gives them as thank you gifts for allowing him to interview them. 

John’s website is one of those that can take you days to fully explore–and you’ll go back for more.  John is modest and insists there are artists who draw in much more detail than he does–and he may be correct. But you can feel the caring in his work and I like that.  Check out the website here. 

I also found a neat article in a Pensacola newspaper about one of the subjects John interviewed, Eugene “Red” James. You can read it here.  

 On Memorial Day we honor our departed loved ones and we give special honor to all those who served in the United States Armed Forces. John Mollison honors our living WWII and Korean Conflict heroes and learns from them as well. On his website he says:

A question most-often asked is, “What’s the big thing you get out of all these interviews?”

For one, it’s a deep appreciation and looking-forward to growing old.   When I was born, the men I’ve interviewed were older than I am now. To put another way, they have an entire lifetime of wisdom and learning over me…and it shows.

Yet, these men are lively, vibrant, students of learning, humble and, in a few cases, could probably kick my butt if push came to shove.

 I look forward to aging like they have- strong, sharp and alive.

 And hopefully, the study of History will become more valued.  Living in the past is silly, but you have to admit that it points in fairly reliable directions.

I enjoy all of John Mollison’s website, but especially enjoy the photos of him and some of the pilots he has interviewed. You can check that page here. They look like people I would love to meet myself, so I envy John. I not only envy him his talent, I envy the creativity and thoughtfulness he has shown by using his talent to enrich the lives of others. He makes every day a Memorial Day. That is a good idea for all of us.

May 26th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 14 comments

Think Before You CC

Think before you CC on that emailMust You Copy Someone On That Message?   

Being able to send a typed message to several people at once is one of the great benefits of email.  However, many people misuse the benefit and make it one of the worst aspects of a great concept. 

Remember: Email doesn’t waste time. People misusing email waste time.

 Unless you have been directed, requested or begged to CC or BC a message, think before you do it.  Then, think again. There are certainly times when it is appropriate and effective. For example, when you are commending someone, want others to know about it, and want the person you are commending to see who you have copied. Or, when several people are working together and all must get exactly the same information.  However, often it is not appropriate or effective and makes you look badly.

You may add to email clutter.

Does the person you are copying really need to read the entire message? Will it help them do their work more effectively? When they said to keep them informed, did they mean they wanted to see all the emails about a subject as an “FYI”?  Instead of copying on every item, consider sending them a direct email with an overview of what is happening. If it’s not important enough to take the time to do that, maybe copying isn’t needed. 

You may seem to be trying to look impressive.

Are you mostly trying to show how effective you are? (Most of us have done that sometime.) Rather than making you appear saintly or impressive, the message may irritate or amuse those who are CC’d on it. They may not tell you, but mentally they may be sighing or rolling their eyes–or just hitting delete.

Instead of copying what you send to others, send a direct email to the person you want to inform about your work.  If you don’t think that would be effective or well-received, don’t CC on the messages either.

You may create or add to hostility

Will the original recipient view the CC as a way of tattling on them or emphasizing your status?  Your message can go from merely irritating to infuriating if the recipient thinks you are trying to get him or her in trouble or implying that you and the boss are in close contact.  Unnecessarily CC’ing a person higher up on a message can be like waving a red flag in front of the direct recipient.

You may stir up trouble

Is the message likely to create conflict? If you know or are reasonably sure that what you are sending will create negative feelings for those being copied or for direct recipients, don’t do it.  If you are venting and you only want the maximum audience, don’t do it. If you don’t have the courage to say something face to face, but you figure you can get by with it and sound tough by email, don’t do it.

If there is something going on that needs to be confronted, do it in person or by phone. If documentation is needed, follow-up with an email or an email with a document attached.

Some alternatives to CC

Instead of CC’ing someone, forward the original. Forwarding  allows you to add a message specifically for the recipient. It also prevents the recipient of the forwarded email from an awkward “Reply All” , which sometimes happens on copied mail. 

If you CC, consider saying in the message why you are doing it.  “I’m copying Bill on this, since he has to give approval next.” If you can’t think of a succinct reason for copying someone, don’t copy them. (How does this sound? “I’m copying Kristie, so she will see what I’m having to put up with.” Or, “I’m copying Chuck, so he’ll know I’m working hard on this project.” Or, “Kyle, I’m copying Vernon so you know I have his support. Nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Blind Copy, to avoid having all the recipients known.  When someone is blind copied their email address is not seen by direct recipients. This can be useful in many circumstances and is a valid action in some cases. However, it can have drawbacks as well. For example, it can seem sneaky, if the person you blind copied then writes directly to the person you were emailing or accidentally sends a “Reply All” message.  It is wise to send a direct message to the Blind Copied person telling them why you have done it that way.  (Forwarding the original can achieve the same purpose, without taking much more time.)

Make CC’ing a useful tool

Being able to send several people the same message at the same time is one of the great benefits of email. Use it unnecessarily or as a weapon and not only will your emails be dreaded by many people, you will lose credibility. Use it wisely and you will be considered efficient and effective by several people at once!

May 16th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 8 comments

There Is No Troll In Any Closet, Anywhere!

Is this a spectacular doorknob, or what??? But there is no Troll behind it!

The Untrue Story About The Troll In The Closet

In the last few months I have heard various versions of the “troll in the closet” story. You know the one–a mentally challenged youngster, or a mentally challenged adult, or an Irishman, or a drunk or a senile person or a blonde, whatever–calls a family member or the police or a friend and says, “I have a troll locked in the closet, come home right away!” The person receiving the call says, yeah sure and doesn’t go home.  But the calls continue (usually three is about the number for these stories). Finally the person goes home and is taken to the closet, which has a chair and a dresser pushed up against it and sounds of someone kicking the door and cursing. When the door is opened, out comes a very irate midget census taker or small person of some foreign descent or midget Irishman or short someone else, according to whoever is going to be used as the punchline of the story.

I’ve heard it told as the honest-to-goodness truth by at least a dozen people. I’ve read it in emails sent to me as purportedly being truthful. A friend (who knows I’m writing this) sent it to me because she thought I would be able to use it in training. She reported it to me as happening to her sister-in-law who told her the story as true one about a coworker and her son.

Today I received my online newsletter from Cooks Illustrated, a magazine I love. I also enjoy the way the editor, Christopher Kimball, writes. I have always looked foward to reading his comments. In this recent newsletter he wrote about a  man in a nearby town in Vermont who is nice enough but is known to be a heavy drinker. The guy locked what he thought was a troll in the closet–but it turned out to be a midget census taker.  

Mr. Kimball started the story with, “here is a recent story that sounds  completely made up.” But then he goes through the whole story and ends with, “no word yet on the impending lawsuit.”  I’m sure he knew it wasn’t true, so that isn’t my frustration with it. It’s that he wrote about something in a way that will probably be quoted as true by someone–and it isn’t even funny.

Very Few People Want To Receive Non-Personal, Forwarded Messages

When I speak at conferences or in classes about foolish, time-wasting or irritating emails people nod their heads in support and often applaud. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people do not want to receive jokes, amazing stories, virus warnings, free money stories, health and safety warnings that only are publicized in forwarded emails, political or religious editorials or anything else that isn’t a personal message.  (I’m not talking about personal messages in which someone includes photos or an interesting news story. I’m referring to group mailings without any personalization. )

 However, most people don’t want to hurt the feelings of the sender, whether they know them well or not. The sender never realizes that when his or her name pops up on an email with FW: in the subject line, the recipient sighs, hits delete and loses a bit more respect for the sender. 

The Direct Way To Tell Someone To Stop Sending Impersonal Emails

If you’ve been hitting delete, do yourself a favor and simply write back with a short, friendly message: 

Hi Marie, how are you doing? Hope the Spring weather is bringing a lot of nice flowers your way! I got your email with the story about the troll and smiled at the old Urban Legend that seems to make the rounds often. Could you please do me a favor though and take my name off your general email list? I love to get personal messages from you and will always respond right away, but am trying to clear my name from non-personal lists–you know how it goes with so many of those. Thanks very much, I appreciate it! Take care and enjoy this great weather–and keep in touch. I’ll do the same! Tina

An Indirect Way To Tell Someone To Stop Sending You Impersonal Emails

If you don’t want to be so obvious try this (which is less direct than I like, but might be better for some): Wait a few days after receiving a junk email message and send the problem person an email like this one:

Hello Marie! I’ve copied and pasted an email I’m sending to almost everyone on my email list. I am hoping it will stop or appreciably cut down on the number of forwarded messages and other non-personal items I get in my email every day. I wanted to send you a note though to be sure you knew I am always happy to get a personal note from you and will respond right away. It’s only the forwarded messages, warnings, poems and political messages I want to cut out of my mail.

Here is what I’m sending to others:
Hello Friends and Colleagues! I hope you all know how much I value your friendship and how much I enjoy getting personal messages from all of you. So, please keep me on your personal mailing list. However, I’m asking that everyone take me off group mailing lists for forwarded messages or non-personal miscellaneous items. You know how those can fill your mailbox after awhile! I’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness about it as it will really help me. Thank you very much!

I still prefer the more direct way, but I can understand that some of these situations are touchy–especially if they’ve been going on for a long time. Keep this in mind: You’re not being unreasonable and you’re not being rude. You’re just asking for some consideration from a friend. Try it and let me know what happens.

April 29th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 11 comments

Ctrl-Alt-Delete–Do You Need To Do That In Your Life Or Work?

One way to say it! Or it could be, "Let's Stop"! In 1980 IBM started a project in Boca Raton, Florida, to develop a personal computer (a PC) that could be used by regular people in their homes. The story is complex, but you can read some interesting background about it here.  

David Bradley was one of the engineers on the project, and–in spite of a tremendously accomplished career–is best known in some circles as the developer of the three fingered salute: Control, Alternate, Delete (or Control, Alt, Delete as we usually say it.) That combination of keys is a way to end a program or process that has frozen up on you or to look at what is going on in the contraption right now. I’ll bet you have been grateful for it a zillion times!

 Now and then you may want to consider what you need to Ctrl-Alt-Del in your life. What has become frozen and no matter how long you sit and wait, you know it isn’t going anywhere? What is using up energy and overloading your mind unnecessarily? How many processes do you have going? Could some of them be halted to allow you to better focus on others? What about just taking a break for a few minutes?

The first thing you see when you hit Ctrl-Alt-Del on most computers (Vista has a different approach to it, but gets there eventually) is a list of applications–what you have open and active right now. You can also see processes–what is going on behind the scenes. The same concept applies to evaluating your life.  Right now, list the things that are on your mind almost all the time, with few interruptions. Those are in addition to the immediate issues with which you are dealing at work or home. You probably have ten to twenty things that rarely leave your mind and don’t change no matter how much you think about them! Some of them are nice feeling, but most are probably either negative or at least worrisome. No wonder you stay mentally exhausted!

There are several ways to Ctrl-Alt-Del our lives:

1. Exercise physically. One great advantage of walking, running, lifting weights, or doing calisthenics, Pilates or Yoga, is that you almost inevitably rest your mind. Sure, you might think of work, family or what’s for dinner, but it’s different feeling. Have you noticed that you sometimes find solutions or think of something creative or new while you’re working out? You’ve shut down some other processes and unfrozen your brain a bit!

2. Sleep. No matter how messed up things seem as you get ready for bed or when you close your eyes for a nap, your sad or negative emotions will be reduced at least somewhat when you awaken. You may think of the problem or concern almost immediately, but your mind will be better able to deal with it. “Sleep on it” is good advice, not only to be creative but also to reboot mentally and emotionally.

3. Reduce mental processes. You cannot control every aspect of your active life–but you often can do something to make it more manageable. Sometimes getting rid of mental (and actual) clutter can help. Sometimes you may need to completely stop something that is taking away from the quality of your life. You may find you need to stop volunteering so quickly or packing your life full of activity that isn’t necessary or fulfilling. You may need to reduce time with someone who is dragging you down.

You may have found other positive things: A hobby, a pasttime that is fun, sports,  music, art or something else that is a Crtl-Alt-Del process for you. We all need something to stop the negative processes and defragment our minds! But make sure the things you do are positive and worthwhile and that they don’t create more problems. Which, using the computer analogy would mean: When you need to get unfrozen, don’t try to do it by downloading more free screensavers just because they look pretty.

Today and for the next few days, hit Ctrl-Alt-Del occasionally and list the common themes of your recurring, unpleasant thoughts. Are there some you could eliminate by simply tackling a task you’ve been procrastinating about? Could you replace some repeatedly negative thoughts with some positive affirmations? Could you stop feeling guilty or badly or sadly, by purposely finding better things that require your concentration? Do your mind and your life a favor and end those negative programs so you can free your mind for something better.  You deserve the break!

January 17th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 4 comments

Tech Rudeness Or Not?

A friend told me about a meeting she attended last week in which a coworker, Greg,  was looking at his wireless smart phone and texting with both hands–as he always did in meetings. (In the past, people had commented about this rude habit of his and wondered why his boss allowed him to get by with it.) Greg would only look up occasionally. Most of the time he was texting or scrolling. Finally the manager stopped the meeting to tell Greg to put the #$#@! phone away and pay attention.

Greg was shocked and a bit angry and hurt. He showed everyone the screen, which contained notes of the meeting. He said he always took notes that way and used them for the follow-up memo which many had thanked him for producing.  He hadn’t intended to be rude; he intended to be helpful.

That reminded me of two similar situations: In one situation a normally courteous person caught the negative attention of others in a training group by repeatedly looking at his smart phone, as though looking at emails or a text message.  Toward the close of the session it became apparent he had been keeping track of the time for a timed activity in which they were involved.

The other situation was reported to me by a supervisor who was talking to an employee about a work problem. In the middle of the conversation, the employee took out his smart phone and studied the screen, then scrolled and did some texting. He seemed distracted when he responded to a question about some statistics.  The supervisor finally said, “I would appreciate it if you would show me the courtesy of listening and not reading a message while we’re trying to figure this out.” The employee was surprised at the remarks and showed the screen–he had a spreadsheet with data about the problem and was reading along as the supervisor discussed the situation.

After these incidents I did a small survey to find out how people felt about the use of mobile devices in meetings and training. I’m going to continue to gather those opinions and will report them some other time. This post will be focused on the issue of reducing, at least a bit, the appearance of rudeness when you use a mobile device or smart phone.

  • Do you actually need to take notes? If notes are needed, could a few hand written notes suffice? Are you the one who is designated for note taking or could you be more useful as an active contributor? For many people “taking notes” is a way to avoid participating.
  • Explain your intentions. Tell others you will taking notes on the mobile device you use, but emphasize that you will be listening closely. Especially talk about it ahead of time to the group leader or to the trainer. They may tell you they would prefer you not do it.
  • Make eye contact and respond to remarks. If you only look down at the screen you can’t communicate effectively, especially not in groups. Put the device down now and then to listen attentively and respond.
  • Explain your specific purposes for using the mobile device. “Let me see if the emails I received about the project had the information we need. Give me a second to scroll through them.” When you are done, put the phone or device away.
  • Pay attention to how you look to others.  Most adults stare intently at a mobile device because of the size of the screen. Their facial expression is one of concentration on the device, not on the meeting.  They use both hands to text and scroll. If they need glasses, they will tend to hold the smart phone out at arm’s length to see it. All of those things add to the distraction.

Many people are so frustrated about the use of mobile devices in meetings and training that no explanation will make it seem right. However, a brief explanation combined with care to ensure you listen and respond appropriately, may help in many situations. At least it will show that you are concerned about others in the group and that your intentions are positive.

 

October 12th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 7 comments

The History of @

A bunch of arrobas or even some petite snails!

An At By Any Other Name Still Gets Email Delivered

Checking the library and the Internet will provide you with several histories of the @ symbol. Each of the sources state their version with complete confidence and authority.  (That’s how false history and urban legends get started. )

I am putting my trust in this well documented account: In 2000, Giorgio Stabile, a professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, found correspondence written in 1536 by a Florence merchant, Francesco Lapi, describing three treasure-filled ships that had recently arrived from Latin America.  Lapi wrote with mercantile script which had been developed prior to that time and which often involved wrapping a letter with a flourish to indicate a longer word.  He used a wrapped a to denote an amphora, which was a measurement based on the size of terracotta containers and which was also used as an equivalency measurement.  The wrapped a might have been used before then, but no earlier examples have been found.

Arroba symbol

Over time the wrapped a was used in commercial transactions to mean at the rate of, at each or for each. (12 @ $2.00). The first Underwood typewriter in 1885 contained the commercial symbol @, which most referred to simply as at, at each or commercial at. The symbol is also sometimes used in casual handwriting as a way to shorten the two-letter word at to one letter.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer was working with a team to develop a network between computers. Although developing a mail system was not the specific purpose of the project, it was part of the work. He needed to find a way to separate an electronic mail recipient from the host computer name. (The two large computers were actually side by side in his research area).  The word at made sense and the at symbol on the keyboard seemed obvious. It’s been used that way billions of times since then.

KA-10 computers used for the first network email

So, that is how the @ symbol evolved. Quite an evolution!  For the story of what the symbol is now called in other languages, check out an article about the various names for Señor Lapi’s quick version of amphora, which started it all.

October 8th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 7 comments

A GRAND Junction Experience For Rocky Mountain Women in Law Enforcement!

A great group or women and men working for a great group of women and men!

The 2009 Conference Committee for RMWLE

I had the privilege of being one of the presenters at the annual conference for the Rocky Mountain Women in Law Enforcement in Grand Junction, Colorado this week. What a great (grand!) experience!

The photo is of the conference planning committee–and they deserve tremendous thanks for all they did. Felicia Low, president of the association and every association officer and volunteer also deserve applause. I know those women and men would agree that the quality of the conference would not have been possible without vendors, corporate supporters and the chiefs, sheriffs and directors who allowed the participants to attend.

All of the work for the conference centered around the 170 or so professional women and men from the Rocky Mountain states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and even from Florida) who attended and participated enthusiastically in the training. They were inspirational, fun and joyfully dedicated to their professions. You would have liked to be there!

Grand Junction was the perfect place for the conference this year. It is a welcoming city that is close to many attractions and beautiful on its own. I love to walk in the downtown mall area, stop for coffee, shop a bit and just enjoy the great weather (it’s nearly always much more mild than elsewhere in the state.) Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich was an uplifting and motivating speaker on Tuesday night. She was the perfect person for the role, because she started her career in public service as a police officer in Gillette, Wyoming, in the late 70s.

I’ll write more about the conference over time, but had to report its success immediately. One of the recurring themes of every speaker and trainer had to do with building relationships with officers and employees at all levels of the organization as well as building relationships with individuals and groups in the community.  This conference was a great model for the concept!

September 25th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 14 comments

The Flying Fortress And Your Checklists

Major "Pete" Ployer Hill--A remarkable man who, like you, couldn't remember everything.

The B-17, nicknamed The Flying Fortress, has become a symbol for American air power in World War II. It was a high flying (35,000 feet) bomber that cruised at 170 mph but could reach speeds of 300 mph. It also could be defended with thirteen .50 caliber machine guns in multiple ports for use by six gunner crewmen. It was heavy and durable and brought most of its crews home safely in spite of enemy fire, damaged parts and belly landings. It attained a mythical reputation and was the plane of choice for many WWII movies.  (Have you seen 12 O’Clock High?)

There were far fewer B-17s than needed at the start of WWII, in large part because of the tragic death of Major “Pete” Ployer Hill in 1935, when the B-17 was Model 299–an experimental aircraft being tested at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Flying Without A Checklist

Major Hill had a career of distinction and service and was highly respected for his character and personal style. In 1932 he was assigned as the Chief of the Flying Branch of the Material Division at Wright Field. He was the chief test pilot and also provided oversight for hundreds of flight tests on potential aircraft purchases. On October 30, 1935,  Boeing Model 299 was being demonstrated to key Congressional delegates and others. Major Hill (his first time flying the 299) sat in the left seat with Lieutenant Donald Putt (the primary Army pilot for the previous evaluation flights) as the co-pilot. With them was Leslie Tower (the Boeing Chief Test Pilot), C.W. Benton (a Boeing mechanic), and Henry Igo (a representative of the engine manufacturer).

The plane took off just fine and began to climb but suddenly stalled and crashed. Hill died of injuries sustained in the crash and the others had serious burns.  Leslie Tower died several days later. An investigation showed pilot error: The various operations for take-off were complex and Major Hill apparently forgot or did not realize that Model 299 had a “gust lock” on the elevator (the part of the plane that controls the nose up or nose down orientation of the plane). He did everything correctly before take-off except for releasing the lock.

The tragic crash that could have been avoided with a checklist.

The Congressional delegation advised against purchasing the aircraft because it was “too complex for one man to fly”.  However, a few were purchased for the B-17 position in the Air Force fleet.  The Air Force was concerned that another accident would cause the aircraft to be taken out of service permanently, so a group of Air Force pilots and Boeing mechanics and pilots were given the task of allaying fears about it. Their solution was to develop a list of the equipment that had to be in place and the actions that had to be done before take off, as well as lists for in-flight, prior to landing and after landing.

The list would be in the cockpit and the co-pilot would read each step then wait for the pilot to check the status and verbally indicate it by saying “Check”.  If the co-pilot couldn’t make a check mark everything stopped until the situation was corrected. The flight checklist worked perfectly and made flight activities more organized. Soon, other pilots heard about the idea and developed checklists for their own planes. Within a short time it was required for all pilots in all aircraft.

Eventually Boeing was given contracts for a significant number of B-17s, but this delay meant the United States was two years into WWII before the Air Force had a sufficient number of the bombers. Production on the B-17 set records for large aircraft and required 24 hour shifts of mechanics and laborers–including many women who became part of the “Rosie the Riveter” story in WWII.  Only 200 B-17s were in use at the beginning of the war and over 12,000 of the aircraft were built by the time production ended in 1945.

It weighed 50,000 lbs. when it had a 6,000 lb. bomb load.

The lessons for us in the crash of  Model 299–The Flying Fortress 

1.) The B-17 wasn’t too complex for one person to fly. However, it was too complex for one person to remember everything that needed to be done. Seven items, give or take an item or two, is about the maximum we can remember easily. If the items are complex or unfamiliar, three is about the maximum. (Think about the implications for trying to teach or learn a task with several steps. )

2.) A mental checklist can be helpful–but it requires memorizing the checklist, which consists of the steps! When a task or series of tasks is crucial, use a written list and check each item as it is accomplished.  (Think of the implications for safety, training and for avoiding calling a repairman who arrives and does the one thing you forgot again, then charges you $85.)

3.) Working with someone can help you stay honest about the list. If you are checking it yourself you might be inclined to move down it without ensuring each item is in place or each step has been accomplished.

4.) If you are developing a checklist, work with the people doing the task to produce it. Do not leave it entirely up the them, since often those who do a task jump the steps mentally, but let them contribute to it.

5.) The checklist was developed because someone higher-up wasn’t satisfied.  I wonder if the pilots grumbled about Puzzle Palace interference? Do you think they would have developed a checklist if they hadn’t been trying to overcome opposition?

6.) Why was Major Hill flying that day? This one isn’t related to checklists, but needs to be mentioned: Major Hill was a  fine pilot and so was Lieutenant Putt, who went on to become a Lieutenant General and the Director of Research and Development for the Air Force–and he had flown the plane several times.  So, why was Major Hill flying that day?

It could be that Major Hill was required to fly for such a crucial demonstration. Or, it could be he wanted to fly to make sure nothing went wrong–and he trusted his own skills for that.  It could be he simply wanted to be in on a big event of that nature. We will never know that part of the story. But, this can be said without a doubt: If he had gone through orientation training with either Lieutenant Putt or Mr. Tower, the Boeing pilot, he would have known about the gust lock. If he had known about it perhaps he would have disengaged it, flown a perfect flight, sold the Congressmen on fully equipping the Air Force fleet and the early days of WWII might have been different–and he and Mr. Tower might have lived long lives, enjoying their memories.

Consider the implications for that when you feel the need to show that you know the job as well or better as those who are doing it every day. You may have once been an expert but things change. Make the assumption that you will always benefit from refresher training–and the same applies to anyone who has not done a task for awhile.

7.) Think about the checklists that could benefit you and your work group:

  • When a task or process is too important to leave anything out even once: Make a checklist and train, test and evaluate with the requirement that it be used every time.
  • Even if you don’t institute a checklist for tasks: Consider frequent refresher training, including having the people who will be doing the task explain what they do and why they do it.
  • Make a list of  the steps involved in the action on the computer or other equipment that you always seem to forget. Use the checklist so you don’t have to call someone to help you so often.
  • Have checklist for your fitness routine. Checking each exercise or activity off is motivating and prevents lapses.
  • Keep a list by the door at home and work:  It will keep you from turning around and going back–or doing without.
  • Post lists next to equipment or in areas where a task is performed: Employees can easily follow all the steps in the right order.
  • Have trainees develop checklists of the multi-step tasks with which they are having problems.
  • Tape, pin or place checklists: Put them inside your briefcase, suitcase or the trunk of your car.
  • Use checklists in testing: Leave out a few steps in a list and have trainees provide them.
  • What else?

The bottom line about the Flying Fortress and your checklists: Would you want the person piloting a plane in which you were flying to not use a checklist? What if the pilot resented being micromanaged in that way? What if the pilot said he or she knew the processes for readying the airplane for take-off and didn’t need a checklist?  What if the co-pilot said it was a big hassle and took up too much time? You know the answers!

The Flying Fortress!

September 14th, 2009 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 21 comments

Thank YOU Jennifer and Jacob!

Thank YOU, Jennifer!A few months ago I mentioned a great way to use your name card in training–write a thank you note to the instructor.  I had been surprised and delighted with such a card after a class for police sergeants and supervisors and wrote about it then.

A few weeks ago I received another of those, then another a week later–one from Jennifer Kirkland, a Communications (Dispatch) Supervisor for the Vail Police Department and one from Jacob Campbell of the Cherry Hills Police Department.  Jacob is a tremendously impressive sergeant with a great career ahead of him and I certainly appreciated the thank you note on his name card.  However,  I will focus on Jennifer’s in this article for one big reason: I had to get hers out of the trash!

Several of us were cleaning up after a class on supervisory interviewing and I was getting ready to throw some items away when I saw a name tag with writing on it covered up by some other trash.  I took it out and smiled to see the note.

It may not be original, but thanks, Tina! It was great!

I carefully wiped the coffee grounds from it–as though it was the Holy Grail being restored–and put it into my briefcase with reverence. I scanned it into my computer when I got home and saved the card in my files. I was thrilled to have it! (I love the emails I receive too, so don’t think I’m picky about how I get a thank you note!)

Creative thank you and greeting ideas for training or work: The next time you attend training, use your name tag to write a thank you to the instructor or a fellow participant. Or, take it back to your office and give it to the person who helped make the training possible for you. Be creative in any other meeting or gathering and find something on which to leave a thank you note for the coordinator or someone else responsible. Or, simply look for ways to leave your mark and have an Instant Impact on someone’s day.

  • If it’s a food event, write a Thank You on a napkin and leave it on the co-worker’s desk. 
  • Write “thank you” or greeting on a snack package and give it to an employee.
  • Write a thank you note on a styrofoam cup and hand it to someone you appreciate.
  • Buy a coworker a can of pop and tape a fun note to it.
  • Put a note in a desk drawer, on a purse or briefcase or somewhere else unexpected.
  • Think of something even more creative—but appropriate–and say thank you or just Hi! to someone you know at work.

The idea is to surprise people with an unexpected thank you note or greeting. You don’t have to do it creatively–but it certainly has an impact when you do!

In Jennifer’s case, she must have decided not to leave the note after all–or, maybe her name card was put in the trash inadvertently. Whatever the situation, I’m glad I found Jennifer Kirkland’s name card because I was very happy to have it–coffee grounds and all.

July 9th, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 4 comments

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