Principle 7: Problem-Solving

Summary

Support the problem-solving process during implementation by facilitating trade-offs.

Principle 7: Problem-Solving Icon: EUROCONTROL © (All rights reserved)

In complex design projects, everything is connected. Solving problems individually is likely to create new issues.

The HF/E experts role is to maintain an overview of the design space and help facilitate trade-offs.

The design of ATM systems is a complex undertaking with many interdependencies. Almost every design element has influence on at least one other. This is not a problem per se, but these interdependencies need to be acknowledged and managed. The required expertise in all the design areas is usually not concentrated at one point but scattered throughout the organisation. Because of this, there is a danger that business units work in isolation from each other and adopt the solution that reflects their viewpoint and boundaries. The sum of these adaptations, however, is highly likely to not be optimal for a controller working position as a whole.

It might occasionally happen that people synchronise beyond their boundaries in order to build a coherent user experience. Unfortunately, that is not the norm.

This lack of synchronisation occurs when the organisation is in problem-solving mode. Problem-solving usually refers to a specific issue that emerges unexpectedly (such as incidents). These issues often occur in projects at short notice and in the late stages, for example when users are involved during an evaluation. Typical examples are poor user experience, insufficient font sizes and an inconsistent usage of colours. HF/E experts are then called into the project and requested to address the problem identified.

In order to break the cycle of mal-adaptation and creation of new issues, HF/E experts have to have two key competences: the ability to withstand the urge to quickly “solve” the alleged singular issue and the ability to create an overview of which design elements influence the one currently in focus and which are influenced by it. Thus, the role of HF/E experts is to define achievable goals and to find a possible solution given the project’s boundaries, such as budget, time or technological limitations. Other experts in the project are loyal to their specific professional ethos as well, which requires HF/E experts to coordinate among different domains. The outcome is frequently a compromise that at least does not contradict any professional convictions.

Icon: EUROCONTROL © (All rights reserved)

HF/E could make a significant contribution for organisations that are in a problem-solving mode by embracing the systems approach and putting it into action. The challenge is to withstand the quick fix, take a holistic perspective and mediate among different disciplines, issues and requirements. In this role, HF/E acts as a mediator within an organisation, weighs different requirements from different departments against each other and facilitates trade-offs. Furthermore, HF/E is able to recognise incoherencies in the overall user experience caused by fragmented problem-solving before consequences emerge.

Source: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design, EUROCONTROL, 2019

The White Paper is available on Bookshelf here: White Paper on Human Factors Integration in ATM System Design

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