Leading Change in SMS

A Safety Management Systems (SMS) Certificate Course

See Course Schedule

As the aviation industry worldwide embraces Safety Management Systems as the modern day reality, or as ICAO states “an organized approach to safety”, organizations are going through significant changes. These changes are best represented in the move from a reactive hit-and-miss culture to a proactive, systemic and explicit approach to safety. In other words no longer is it acceptable to “do a lot of safety every time we have an occurrence.”1 The expectation is that the only acceptable approach to safety will be to mirror the business planning process. That approach is creating significant organizational changes at all levels.

This workshop will target changes within your organization, regardless of size! Too often in today’s fast paced world there is an unrealistic search for the ‘magic bullet’, the secret to success that can transform an organization overnight. The reality is that such a ‘bullet’ does not exist; thus to assist safety managers, or any individual involved in the SMS implementation, SCSI has put together a practical, hands-on course, that will provide the answers and processes to overcome resistance to change and help facilitate the evolution of a safety culture.

In this case-study based workshop we will examine, discuss and debate how to evolve and lead change with attention to both the organizational factors and the human factors. One of the major challenges of ‘change’ is to get people at all levels to understand, accept and facilitate the implementation of the SMS processes. We will examine the components of an SMS, based on ICAO’s four pillars, to see which areas will create the challenge and how to overcome those obstacles.

“For me, the ability to interact with professionals of similar experience and background and apply real world challenges to the academic subject matter was the most valuable part of the class. What helped tremendously as well was the real world experience of the instructor. For me, knowing how to apply knowledge becomes just as important as the knowledge itself. Being able to share experiences, problem solving techniques, and viewpoints with both the class facilitator and the professionals involved was priceless. This was the first class that really allowed me to combine my previous academics and real world experiences in to a comprehensive view of SMS.” Air Safety Chairman SWA Pilot’s Association

1. Patrick Hudson, Leiden University, on Pathological safety cultures

Evolving into a Proactive and Just Culture

A practical case study based approach on how to manage the organizational changes associated with SMS

“Encourage people to understand that change isn’t what happens to organizations — it’s what organizations do to make things happen.”

Robert J Ristino

Who Should Attend

  • Safety Managers who are in the process of implementing an SMS, or those who anticipate the implementation in the near future
  • Directors of aviation organizations, both civilian and military, that have safety oversight responsibilities within their organization
  • personnel assigned to build, implement, revise, and manage aviation programs
  • Individuals who need to understand the barriers and pitfalls of leading change in aviation operations and how to develop the processes to overcome those limiting factors
  • Those charged with implementing or assisting in the implantation of safety programs in their organization

How You Will Benefit

  • Understand the challenges to implementing an SMS from and organizational and human perspective
  • Develop practical tools to help facilitate overcoming the limiting factors to change
  • Understand the organizational culture in the context of a high consequence industry such as aviation
  • Develop and implement intervention strategies
  • Develop practical tools to facilitate effective communication within your organization, be it vertical or lateral, internal or external
  • Understand the challenges and develop tools to enhance internal alignment and external adaptation
  • Identify how organizational accidents evolve and develop strategies to mitigate the risk of their occurrence within your organization
  • Upon course completion, the aviation professional will possess the knowledge and tools necessary to integrate effective organizational concepts into their operation
  • Develop concepts on how to manage expectations at all levels of an organization
  • The communication workshop will cover a variety of specific areas to enhance organizational effectiveness and/or facilitate change, to include:
  • Organizational communication
  • Interpersonal communication
  • The challenges and barriers to communication effectiveness
  • Unleashing the power of safety forums and meetings
  • This course is accepted by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals for Continuance of Certification credit.
  • This course counts for the Certificate in Safety Management Systems granted by SCSI.
  • SCSI will award 3.6 CEUs to each participant who successfully completes this course.

Course Topics

Review of ICAO’s Four Components of an SMS and where they will create challenges

Who are the stakeholders in any organization?

Type of resistance/barriers to change in organizations

Why do people resist change?

  • Fear of change, the unknown and loss of control (Loss of position, money, prestige)
  • Time constraints
  • Lack of skills to deal with people or understand the tools of the change
  • Adverse to “touchy-feely” people issues
  • Negative expectations that change is simply the latest “fad”

Ways to overcome resistance to change

  • Senior management communicated their support for the new changes
  • Use organization wide communication on the need for change
  • Senior managers are strong models/champions for the change
  • Change design team consisting of persons from different levels/departments in the organization
  • Implementation team consisting of persons from different levels/depts in the organizations
  • Communicated vision for how the organization would operate after the change (Answer: “How will this impact me?”)
  • Conduct employee focus groups
  • Conduct manager focus groups
  • Survey users of the current system for input into the new system changes
  • Gain support of “opinion leaders”
  • Gain support from “formal and informal” leaders
  • Show consequences of “change” is better than consequences of “no change”
  • Constant support for change from all levels of management
  • Consistent and clear message about the change

Systems you can put into places to promote change

  • Training and education
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Leadership development
  • Employee opinion surveys
  • Tie compensation to performance
  • Performance management appraisal
  • Recruitment — hire new people
  • Establish a “champion” for change
  • Integrate change into overall strategic plan
  • Senior executives participate in “no exception” education and training
  • Senior executives frequently state the business case for change
  • Senior executives have a portion of compensation tied to change success
  • Just senior executives?
  • How much compensation tied to success?
  • Evaluate initial response to training on the change
  • Evaluate how well participants learned the facts of the change (reason, new SOPs, new job descriptions, etc.)
  • Evaluate Behavior to see if Behavior has changed
  • Evaluate Results of the change: Did you achieve desired results of change?

A Safety Manager’s SMS Toolbox — How to foster trust to evolve into a Just Culture

Organizational Culture

  • The levels
  • The assumptions
  • Accidents in High Consequence Industries

A Systems Approach to Managing Change in a Safety Culture


  • Organizational Communication
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • How to Unleash the Power of Safety Forums/Meetings

Utilizing the Three Mediums of Communication towards Organizational Effectiveness

How to Laterally Market Safety Across Organizational Boundaries

Breaking Down Organizational Silos

Change — When to Lead and when to Manage

Evolution of a Safety Culture

Managing Expectations

How to Measure the Immeasurable

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviewing

Video Case Studies

Case Studies

Course Instructor

Gary T Hook

Gary has been directly involved in aviation safety since 1978. His more than 30 years of significant international experience in safety, at all levels of an organization, makes him a highly credible and competent facilitator of this key workshop.

For more than 10 years he has been directly involved in training the concepts of SMS, human factors, organizational factors, risk management, and communication on the international stage. He has worked with major airports all across Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Brunei. He has worked with KLM in Amsterdam, FedEx in Memphis and a host of organizations across North America.

As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Air Force he served for more than 35 years. He received the Air Force’s highest commendation for his significant and lasting impact on influencing their safety culture.

As a pilot he has accumulated more than 5000 flying hours. The majority of this time was spent on operational fighter tours in Europe (9 years) and Canada. His last regular force assignment was as Commandant, Central Flying School. In addition to serving as the Commander’s Senior Standards Eval officer for all flying training, he was also in charge of the Canadian Air Forces training for Human Performance in Military Aviation, a composite program that covers MRM, CRM and TRM at all levels, including the organizational level.

As an instructor and facilitator he has extensive international experience with both civilian and military organizations, including::

  • Provided training on SMS, occurrence investigation, risk management, human and organizational factors for Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver international airports
  • Conducted both SMS and Human Factor workshops for the International Association of Airport Executives — Canada
  • Completely redesigned the CF Air Force Safety Management System courses significantly enhancing the human factors and practical application of the material
  • Served as the Commander’s senior flight safety advisor for six years and was awarded two commendations for his leadership and enhancement of the safety culture
  • Presented major workshops at both the International Symposium in Aviation Psychology and Transport Canada’s Canadian Aviation Safety Seminar
  • Regular presented at SWIFT (Summer Winter Integrated Field Technologies), the world’s premier airfield conference.

Aside from his work with the Canadian Air Force, he has significant international experience teaching human factors, risk management, communication, leadership and organizational effectiveness. He has developed an expertise in human factors, Organizational Culture, Maintenance and Crew Resource Management, Human Factors in Decision Making, Risk Management, leadership studies and communication; additionally he is a certified corporate facilitator for the Franklin-Covey workshops including the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and 4 Roles of Leadership.

Course Administration

The Leading Change in SMS course consists of 4.5 training days. Students receive a course book to include class notes, lecture outlines, additional reference material and a Certificate of Completion. The classes start each morning at 0800 and ending at noon on the last day.