Evaluating Team Resource Management Implementation within ATC and to Define the Practice for IFATCA

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Evaluating Team Resource Management Implementation within ATC and to Define the Practice for IFATCA

50TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Amman, Jordan, 11-15 April 2011

WP No. 156

Evaluating Team Resource Management Implementation within ATC and to Define the Practice for IFATCA

Presented by PLC


The task of the paper was threefold. The primary intent was to define the practice of Team Resource Management (TRM) for IFATCA. Secondly, it was to evaluate existing TRM programs against ICAO guidelines and thirdly to provide a useable framework to those MAs considering implementing TRM.


1.1 TRM was considered for application to ATC following the success achieved with Crew Resource Management (CRM) in the airline community. CRM was able to provide dramatic improvements in safety by the application of revised procedures and concepts within any given team. The practice gained such widespread acceptance to the extent that it is now applied within virtually every international airline. CRM training is not only given to aircrew, but to a wide cross-section of operational staff within each airline.

1.2 The success of CRM was considered so significant that a comparable result was sought within ATM. The practice has since been adopted into many other industries under different guises to achieve higher levels of safety and efficiency. The Medical industry for example, has embraced such practices into operating theatres. The major aim of TRM as derived from CRM, was to reduce human error by clearly delineating roles and establishing effective cross checking procedures within a team.

1.3 In the mid 1990s several initiatives were started by various ATS providers to develop a CRM-like program for practical application within the ATS environment.

1.4 In Eurocontrol that process commenced in 1995 when a Team Resource Management Task Force (TRMTF) was established. The purpose of the TRMTF was to produce guidelines for the development and implementation of TRM within an ATM. A secondary purpose was that the Task Force hoped to foster an awareness of the benefits of TRM into global training plan and to create a generic course model.

1.5 There are several definitions of TRM however for the purposes of this paper the ICAO definition will be accepted. TRM is:

“To make optimal use of all available resources – people, equipment, and information – to enhance the safety and efficiency of Air Traffic Services”

1.6 IFATCA introduced policy on TRM in 2001, for it to be included in initial ATC training and also refresher training. (IFATCA Technical and Professional Manual, under Policy relating to ATC Training 2.1.2 and Refresher Courses, 5.1)


2.1 Safety Management Systems (SMS) in ATM

2.1.1 To clearly identify the place of TRM in the broader scope of an established SMS, it is worth identifying all other elements and seeing what interdependence if any exists. Within the last decade in ATM there have been numerous advances in widespread acceptance of SMS under the guidance of ICAO. ICAO has now mandated the use of SMS Manual Doc 9859 to standardise the approach to safety. TRM as defined by ICAO is an integral component of SMS.

2.1.2 Safety Culture

Safety Culture is the way safety is perceived, valued and prioritised in an organisation. It reflects the real commitment to safety at all levels in the organisation. It has also been described as “how an organisation behaves when no one is watching”.

2.1.3 Just Culture

One key to the successful implementation of safety regulation is to establish a “just culture” reporting environment within aviation organisations, regulators and investigation authorities. Such a culture depends on how organisations handle blame and or punishment.

2.1.4 Human Factors

Effective Human Performance is fundamental to operational safety in aviation. The majority of undesired outcomes are attributable to the people who populate the aviation system. They may especially occur in relation to the interface between people and complex procedures and equipment that exist to support the safe and efficient completion of their duties. The ’human factors’ to which they are subject sometimes lead to unintended errors of task management and professional judgment. ICAO has formally acknowledged the role of HF’s in aviation, by mandating Human Factors training with the introduction of Human Factors Training Manual (Doc 9683).

2.1.5 Threat and Error Management (TEM)

TEM is an overarching safety concept regarding aviation operations and human performance. It is not a revolutionary concept, but one that has evolved gradually, as a consequence of the constant drive to improve the margins of safety in aviation operations through the practical integration of Human Factors knowledge. TEM has now been mandated by ICAO as a requirement in ATC training.

2.1.6 Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP)

Another component of SMS for ICAO has been the establishment of a continuous safety assessment model. USOAP was launched in 1999 in response to widespread concerns expressed regarding the apparent inability of some Contracting States to carry out their safety oversight functions. For this model to be effective, it too has direct links with the ethos of TRM by seeking out undesired working conditions within ATM.

2.1.7 Normal Oversight Safety Survey (NOSS)

Similar to the development of TRM from the airline equivalent, CRM, NOSS was developed as a specific ATC variation of the airline equivalent of Line Operated Safety Audit (LOSA). The airline community has embraced LOSA in a relatively short period of time due to the impressive results obtained from the quantifiable measurement of deviation from standards and procedures. In parallel, ANSPs are seeing equally promising results from the participation in NOSS.

2.1.8 TRM Linking within SMS

TEM and Human Factors are undeniably linked to the content and delivery of TRM. Other more obscure connections also involving Safety Culture and oversight have just as compelling a foundation within TRM. The analogy then makes TRM an excellent delivery tool of simultaneous elements of SMS and for an ANSP to remain proactive within the workplace instead of reactive.

2.2 The benefits of TRM

2.2.1 ICAO sees TRM being applied as a training countermeasure to human error. It is therefore clearly an adjunct of TEM. The benefits of TRM are seen as:

  • Enhanced TEM management capabilities
  • Enhanced continuity and stability of team work
  • Enhanced task efficiency
  • Enhanced sense of working as part of a larger and more efficient team
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Improves staff resources

2.3 TRM – from concept to implementation

2.3.1 Restating the definition of TRM to focus on the intended aim:

“Strategies for the best use of available resources – people, information and equipment – to optimize safety and efficiency in ATM”.

To initiate a suitable TRM process Eurocontrol has created both a strategy and guidelines to employ from inception to maturity within an ATM.

2.3.2 For a Safety Culture to be successful it must commence from the very top of the organization and filter down through all levels. As there is an intrinsic link between Safety Culture and TRM, similarly it follows the TRM process must initiate at the highest levels of an organization. The next step is an education phase to ensure ATCOs are fully aware of the aim. This communication between management and operational staff is vital in achieving program goals.

2.3.3 The role of management support in team training initiatives such as TRM cannot be overestimated. It is important that TRM not be viewed as a cosmetic and expensive “add on” to existing training, but rather as an integral part of training structure within the organization.

2.3.4 The remainder of implementation follows a practical phase of integrating TRM concepts via simulation and On The Job training. During this phase the scope of the operational Team needs to be developed locally to ensure it captures all relevant participants. (E.g. Pilots, supervisors and technicians, Rescue Fire Services and airfield operators) To role-play with these parties participating is obviously ideal.

2.3.5 Many controllers are aware of the existence and benefits of CRM, however hold a belief that most of the subject matter is skewed towards aircrew. NATS UK has implemented Mixed Crew Resource Management (MCRM) to achieve the desired result by obtaining an industry agreement where pilots and controllers conduct their CRM/TRM jointly. The course analyses incidents from an ATC and aircrew perspective, looking primarily at communication and situational awareness, and provides a forum to discuss both technical and procedural issues together with the aims and intentions of the each group.

2.3.6 It is necessary to ensure effectiveness that TRM is the subject of refresher training and an oversight program. (IFATCA T& P Manual, Policy on TRM in Refresher Courses, 5.1)

2.4 Eurocontrol’s Model for TRM

2.4.1 TRM at an individual level focuses attention personal performance, characteristics and beliefs. Because of this TRM effectively cannot be taught in a traditional classroom environment. Consequently, TRM courses are focused on helping participants learn by themselves in a practical manner, rather than delivering classroom based teaching.

2.4.2 Involvement

Teaching TRM in a traditional manner is contrary to the essence of TRM. Listening to classroom lectures provides little interaction or involvement from participants. It is the involvement along with an open critical view towards oneself and others that is the core of TRM.

2.4.3 Facilitators

This is why TRM sessions are centered around a facilitator with operational ATC experience who is trained in assisting participants develop their own ideas and positive attitudes, and in creating an environment which stimulates learning

2.4.4 Exercises

In a typical TRM exercise, participants are challenged to take a stand and maintain their point of view by reasoning, even though others see things differently. This forces the individual to really think about their own opinion in light of other views and ideas.

2.4.5 The most effective exercises are short and with an emphasis on fun. Practice shows 20 minutes is enough to make a point. After each exercise, the facilitator provides room for discussion and reflection. The experiences that are shared during the discussion prove to be very valuable.

2.5 Aims of TRM

2.5.1 In ATM it is not easy to define “team” and “teamwork”; however it is obvious that operational staff work in team structures (Hopkin, 1987, Ruitenberg 1995). To enable operational staff to develop an effective ATM team concept, TRM should address the following subjects:

  • Situational Awareness: Symptoms of loss of situational awareness and factors that can have a positive or negative influence on awareness.
  • Decision-making: Basic principles of individual and group decision-making processes.
  • Communication: Improve communication within teams and their effect on safety.
  • Teamwork: Effects of shared mental models and strategies to develop common understanding of typical situations that may influence efficient teamwork.
  • Leadership: Leadership, authority and assertiveness and their positive or negative effects on teamwork depending on how it is used or misused.
  • Stress Management: Effects of stress within ATM and the skills to cope with stress-related problems within teams.

2.5.2 Whilst it is worthy to detail the capabilities of TRM, it is worth highlighting likely occurrences and practices in the absence of TRM. An individual or team is unlikely to be able to identify and correct weaknesses in the following areas:

  • Communication between controllers, including briefing on handover;
  • Communication between controllers and pilots;
  • Situational awareness;
  • Decision making;
  • Monitoring of pilot actions;
  • Monitoring of colleagues;
  • Cooperation with other controllers;
  • Distribution of workload between controllers;
  • Flexibility – ability to adjust to changing workload.

2.5.3 Any or all of these factors taken singly or in combination may contribute to an accident or serious incident. Equally, a breakdown in teamwork may lead to frustration, irritation, low morale and poor job-satisfaction; which are all likely to have a negative impact on team performance.

2.6 TRM in Europe

The following map shows those European States that have sent representatives to the Eurocontrol TRM facilitator course. Even though TRM development has started fairly recently, a large number of those States recognise the potential of TRM.

2.7 Course structure

2.7.1 The course structure and delivery are critical to the success of the program. As mentioned previously, TRM doesn’t fit traditional educational programs delivered in a classroom. The credibility of any course will depend on the relevance of the information provided to the participant’s everyday working lives. All of the subject matter relates to skills that can and should be demonstrated through simulation exercises. The ensuing discussions are vital to enable the individual to appraise personal performance within a team and make any necessary adaptations. Annex 1 provides a breakdown of recommended topics with examples of how to address them.

2.8 TRM effectiveness

2.8.1 TRM in not and never will be the mechanism to eliminate error or ensure safety in a high-risk endeavour such as aviation. Error is an inevitable result of the natural limitations of human performance and the function of complex systems. TRM is one of an array of effective tools ANSPs can employ to manage human error.

2.8.2 TRM is not a substitute for adequate training, nor is it intended to counteract poor procedures or loosely defined roles. TRM is not intended as a replacement for technical training but should complement it. It is important that TRM be shown to be a means of increasing personal skills and professionalism by application of TEM to a team environment. The increased awareness of doing a more efficient, coupled with an enhanced sense of working as a part of a larger team, will also lead to improved job satisfaction.


3.1 ICAO has acknowledged TRM as a very successful means for ANSPs to proactively identify and rectify safety flaws in the ATM environment. However, it appears that there is an unacceptable level of commitment among the majority of providers towards implementing and maintaining TRM.

3.2 TRM implementation globally falls into three categories. Those that have embraced the concept totally; those that have implemented a program, but fail to allocate sufficient resources for ongoing training and analysis; and those ANSPs who have failed to implement a program. Numerous ANSPs throughout Africa, North and South America, Australia and South East Asia occupy the latter category.

3.3 From those ANSPs willing to embrace TRM, they are providing their staff with an effective means to minimise errors proactively. By doing so, they make clear their commitment to safety. It is a similar characteristic regarding the implementation of Normal Operating Safety Survey (NOSS), where the results provide an effective safety diagnosis of an organization, yet there is considerable reluctance also for application of this Safety Management System (SMS) tool. Both TRM and NOSS are accepted and endorsed by ICAO.

3.4 ATM is a critical element in aviation. Given the proven track record of CRM in the airline industry, IFATCA’s current policy on TRM was introduced following the Geneva conference in 2001.


4.1 For the purposes of defining the concept of TRM, PLC proposes that IFATCA accepts the ICAO definition of TRM in the Manual. That definition states TRM is:

“To make optimal use of all available resources – people, equipment, and information – to enhance the safety and efficiency of Air Traffic Services”


Just Culture – Human Error in Aviation and Legal Process – Eurocontrol https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Just_Culture

Threat and Error Management (TEM) in Air Traffic Control ICAONET 2005.

ICAO Human Factors Training Manual Doc 9683 Human Factors – Chapter 5, Appendix to Chapter 5, Guidelines for Team Resource Management (TRM) training and development.

TRM: from concept to implementation (Sylvie Figarol, DSNA) https://www.eurocontrol.int/corporate/gallery/content/public/event_docs/100_202_ETF_ECTL/4_FIGAROL_CRM_Animations.pdf

ICAO Human Factors For Guidelines for Safety Audits Manual Doc 9806.

EATCHIP: Guidelines for Developing and Implementing Team Resource Management.

ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) https://www.icao.int/cgi/safety.pl

Guidelines for Developing and Implementing Team Resource Management Eurocontrol) www.eurocontrol.int/humanfactors/gallery/content/public/docs/DELIVERABLES/HF2%20(HUM.ET1.ST10.1000-GUI-01)%20Released.pdf

Eissfeldt, H., Goeters, K.-M, Hoermann, H.J., Maschke, P. and Schiewe, A. (1994) Effektives Arbeiten Im Team: Crew Resource Management Training fuer Piloten und Fluglotsen DLR Mitteilung.

Robertson, M.M., Orasanu, J (1993). Decision making in action: Models and Methods.

Hoermann, H.J. (1995) A prescriptive model of aero-nautical decision making.

Kanki, B.G., & Palmer, M.T. (1993). Communication and crew resource management.

Seamster, T.L., (1992) The analysis of an en route air traffic controller team communication and controller resource management (CRM).

Hackman, J.R. (1993) Teams, leaders and organisations: New directions crew-oriented flight trainingSafety Culture-Eurocontrol.

Just Culture – Human Error in Aviation and Legal Process – Eurocontrol https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Just_Culture

Attachment – Eurocontrol Guidelines for Implementing Team Resource Management

Annex 1

Based on the airlines experience in ATS/ATM and CRM training, TRM training subjects should be introduced in the following sequence. (Eurocontrol Guidelines for Implementing Team Resource Management)

1. Situational Awareness

2. Decision Making

3. Communication

4. Teamwork

5. Leadership

6. Stress Management

1 Situational Awareness

The main objectives are that course participants will be able to:

  • Understand situational awareness;
  • Identify symptoms of loss of situational awareness;
  • Identify factors that may have a positive or negative influence on situational awareness.


Describe the effect of high and low workload on situational awareness and develop appropriate strategies on how to prevent loss of awareness in such situations (see also Robertson & Endsley, 1995).


Identify your own personal motivations and attitudes towards job situations and analyse the reasons for these attitudes. Counter measures for actions and decisions based on hazardous attitudes should be developed. There are basically five typical kinds of hazardous attitudes (Eissfeldt et al, 1994) that are useful to analyse within TRM.

  • Anti-authority: “Don’t tell me what to do!”
  • Impulsiveness: “I must act now, there is no time.”
  • Invulnerability: “It won’t happen to me.”
  • Macho: “I’ll show you – I can do it!”
  • Resignation: “What’s the use?”

2 Decision-making

The main objectives are that course participants will be able to:

  • Understand factors which contribute to effective team decision-making.


Describe the importance of situation and risk assessment skills, meta-cognition, shared problem models and resource management skills in the process of team decision-making (see also Orasanu, 1993).


Describe the FOR-DEC model (Hoermann, 1995), which means the analysis of Facts, Options, Risks and Benefits, Decision, Execution and Check in special ATM-related situations such as emergencies, system failures, unusual situations, etc.

3. Communication

The main objectives are that course participants will be able to:

  • Identify the functions of communication and analyse how communication is being performed within teams and how it can affect safety.


Understand the main functions of communication: provide information, establish interpersonal relationships, establish predictable behaviour patterns and maintain attention to tasks and monitoring. (see also Kanki & Palmer, 1993; Seamster et al., 1992). The effect of using Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) to communicate information and the risk of not adhering to SOPs should be made clear in this context.

  • Develop strategies on how to communicate effectively, how to intervene efficiently in typical ATM-related situations and how to give and receive feedback and constructive criticism.


Analyse how misunderstandings can be avoided, suggestions communicated constructively and what effects criticism can have. Barriers to communication and ways of eliminating them should be specified. Effective communication skills should be taught to improve interpersonal diplomacy, appropriate assertiveness and team-oriented decision-making in order to generate positive reinforcement and respect within a team. The nature of information and how it is transferred should be analysed. The aim is to make participants aware of the danger of bad or confusing communication by presenting relevant examples that help them to develop more efficient and safer communication strategies.

4. Teamwork

The main objectives are that course participants should be able to:

  • Determine typical characteristics of ATM-related teamwork.


Define the relevant positions and status of team members within an ATM team and determine the different roles, duties, responsibilities and the effect of their position in a team.

  • Identify behaviour that has a negative impact on teamwork and consequently develop and practice behavioural strategies that help to improve effective teamwork.


Identify typical attitudes and behaviours of team members that may have positive and negative effects on teamwork (e.g. high and low power distance, uncertainty avoidance and individualism). Their strengths and weaknesses should be discussed and determined. Participants should be made aware of intra- and inter-cultural differences between teams (their own or other units and sectors). Once the skills are determined and identified, operational staff should have the opportunity to analyse, develop and practice them to improve their individual teamwork style and their attitude towards colleagues.

  • Identify the importance of recognising different character types within teams and their influence on teamwork.


Demonstrate how dominant and subordinate personalities can be identified and how various kinds of behavioural methods can help achieve consistency to maximise efficient team operation. Point out how dominant behaviour can have a negative impact on other team member’s performance (i.e. the dominant controller forcing the weaker colleague to accept more traffic than he or she is able to handle).

  • Understand the meaning and differences between team identity and corporate identity


Determine the “official rules”, “unofficial rules” and “unwritten rules” within an ATM environment and their effect on individual behaviour within a team.

  • Understand the effect of shared mental models and develop strategies that allow the development of common understanding of typical situations that may influence efficient teamwork.


Make participants aware of the fact that each individual can interpret complex traffic situations differently (mental model), develop strategies and show examples by which mental models can be shared. Analyse the positive and negative effects on teamwork in order to facilitate the change from an individualistic to a co-operative and effective team- related approach.

5. Leadership

The main objectives are that course participants will be able to:

  • Describe authority and assertiveness.


Describe formal and informal hierarchical structures in an ATM environment. Discuss the role of team supervisors or other team leaders and identify specific characteristics that influence leadership within teams. Determine the participant’s attitude towards authority, how they define their own authority and what it means to them if they feel mistreated (see also Hackman, 1993).

  • Identify ineffective leadership.


Develop strategies to avoid errors due to misunderstandings arising from lack of authority. Develop strategies to deal with submissiveness, assertiveness and aggressiveness.

6. Stress Management

The main objectives are that course participants will be able to:

  • Define job-related stress situations and explain what stress is and its effect on teamwork.
  • Develop skills to prevent stress.
  • Develop skills to recognise and cope with stress situations in teams.


Discuss stress coping strategies in a team environment. The general principles of the assimilation of shocking and stressful events should be described together with the principles of stress management (e.g. relaxation techniques). Discuss and practice team-related exercises dealing with stress detection and methods to help team members overcome the problem.

Last Update: September 30, 2020  

April 18, 2020   796   Jean-Francois Lepage    2011    

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