David Carter, group service director at Volkswagen Group UK, and his managers crashed two jet aircraft and opened up some nasty wounds in their search for teamwork
The idea behind booking a day’s training using flight simulators was to facilitate teamwork within the group. Our department has a matrix structure, meeting the various different service needs of five separate brands within the Volkswagen Group. We need to be flexible in order to work efficiently across the five brands and the other “back house” departments.
The people involved in this exercise were myself and my direct-report departmental managers - parts, logistics, fleet, sales and marketing - and warranty, technical and the finance controller. With someone from the personnel department to make up the numbers, we fielded three teams of three.
We first spent an away day together brainstorming to determine a consensus view on what we understood by team working.
Think, plan, act
Then we looked around for a course which would be a vehicle to deliver the opportunity to find out what was good teamwork and what was bad, and help us eliminate the bad. This one seemed good because we have a tendency to be too task oriented, and it had a task element but would assist us as a team to think, plan and act together.
The company, Millennium Teamwork, describes itself as providing team development using aircraft simulators, the machines used to train pilots. It also brings into play the concept of cockpit resource management (CRM), developed by the airlines in response to a number of accidents which proved to have been the result of poor communications between cabin crew members.
The experience is based on the Belbin theory of teambuilding, and is delivered by a team consisting of a facilitator and an airline captain who deals with the practical aspects of flying the simulator. It provides a day of briefing, followed by a two-hour group study of the aircraft manual before going on to the simulator in groups of three - pilot, co-pilot and what John Hough, who runs Millennium Teamwork calls the “overseer” - to go through a take-off, cruise, and landing procedure. This is followed by a de-briefing period to discuss what went wrong.