On March 10, 2019 the second Boeing 737 Max 8 (in approximately 5 months) crashed in Ethiopia.  This incident has led to extensive investigations and as of this writing that model aircraft is grounded.

This pundit cannot and will not hazard a guess as to ‘why’ this aviation incident happened and what its ramifications will be—not our area of expertise.  However, this raises another issue that seems to be buried in the headlines.

Recently, the President of the United States is purported to have said, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly.  Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.  I see it all the time in many products.”[i]

In our era of Digitalization, this question/belief is one that many Boards and senior executives may be asking/holding.  It is our understanding that pilots can override the sophisticated autopilot (whose sensor may have been sending erroneous data).  This begs the question, what is the protocol for the Human taking over from the Machine?

What level of training do pilots receive?  What are the ramifications to their career if they make the wrong decision?  These and other questions are being asked continuously.

In this blog series as well as in numerous other articles/speeches, we have commented on this issue.  Interested readers should review several other Critical Mass Blog writings et al. so that information will not be repeated herein.

The question posed in the title, ‘Can the Machine be Trusted and When Should the Human Intervene?’ can be answered and has been many times.  A combination of training and experience will give the human the confidence to make difficult decisions in times of stress.

Recent examples include the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson in 2009, elite military successes, sports teams, and other feats where a small group took charge at difficult moments and as the saying goes, “saved the day.”

Scaling Training and Especially Experience

So how does an organization ‘broadly’ train its large global workforce as well as its ecosystem?  Moreover, how does the same workforce gain ‘experience?’

The saying goes something like, “You can have 30 years of experience in your career or you have one year of experience 30 times.”  Unfortunately, many organizations consist of the latter—employees/contractors and this includes senior executives as well!

Some organizations see training as a cost.  Many have tuition reimbursements programs and send employees to a myriad of conferences and workshops.  However, other than high level platitudes, what is the value of any of this to the employee and/or the organization?

There is also plenty of evidence that traditional training programs do not provide long term knowledge and do not address the experience issue at all.


Immersive training is one form of experience.  The individuals live the situation and realistic options she or he is faced with.

Moreover, on-demand information feeding remote individuals addressing major field problems is important too.  These information feeds can (and probably should) include Subject Matter Expertise from those who came before the contemporary workforce.

In other words, taking the knowledge of those with 30 years of experience and making it available to those with only a few at the task step level is essentially having that senior individual in the cockpit with the more inexperienced person.

Sounds good on this ‘paper’ blog but is this model realistic?  It absolutely is and at a price point that makes the value proposition compelling.

No longer a week-long instructor led workshop where the information is quickly forgotten but knowledge on-demand in a matter that the user can absorb during a critical moment.  One report about the recent airliner crashes was that the pilots were ‘looking up’ procedures in the event of …

Who has time for that in life and death situations?  No one!  The answer must be in front of you in a ‘heads up display’ manner on demand.

Enabling technology is available at reasonable price points.  Blowing stuff up and killing people because employees/contractors are ill equipped to do their job is unacceptable.

Could Your Organization Withstand a Max 8 Incident?  If Not, What is Being Done to Mitigate this Risk?


For more information on Risk Mitigation check out our Operational Excellence Platform.

[i]  https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-today-president-says-airplanes-far-too-complex-to-fly-after-boeings-737-max-crash-2019-03-12