Sunday, 9 April 2017

Settling into the Observer role 09.04.2017

So it's been around 12 weeks since passing my Observer Test, must be time to reflect on how this has changed my view on the IAM world? Well yeah, it hasn't really and I'm finding that growing into the Observer role is rather enjoyable actually. It's a weird sensation in a way, now being the poacher turned gamekeeper, to coin one of the expressions I've heard in relation to the Observer task.

The initial trepidation soon gives way to just getting on with it. Yes the style of delivery will evolve over time, but the material that we're working with should by now be well ingrained into my approach to riding, so passing on what I've learned from the various Observers that have lent me their time shouldn't present a huge hurdle. So reflecting back on the first few guys I've been out doing observed rides with, 9 outings so far including 1 initial assessment, the word passion comes to mind. I'm really enjoying the passing on of knowledge, eliciting ongoing riding style modifications to bring an Associate closer to Advanced Test level.

The approach taken has evolved over time, with Geoff James now favouring an early introduction to commentary with new Associates. Funnily enough it seems to be working so far, to use the words of one Associate, it brings focus to the riding task he wasn't used to beforehand and thus automatically brings hazard identification to the fore. Now it's early days to give a definitive answer whether this approach merits universal adoption, but no harm in trying it with a new Associate, and if it works...well that's a bonus.

The variety of Associates that I'm working with at present is broad, two very experienced riders who are not far off from Advanced Test standard, one who is quite modest in ability and on temporary hiatus, another who is also quite modest in ability yet very eager and able to learn. So I guess the spectrum is covered, and it hammers home the fact that each ride really needs to be tailored to the needs of the Associate at the stage where they're at right now. The objective being to elicit incremental improvements at each outing. Then adding in how this becomes increasingly difficult as an Associate is approaching Test standard, so turning the focus then on maintaining previously covered aspects, while fine tuning the remaining items to the required level. Almost to the point of nit picking I suppose, but it's ultimately what sets an Associate up for passing the Test.

Setting a suitable route for where an Associate is at, on the surface it's simple, yet it requires a bit of preparation still. Google Maps is what I use to verify rough time and distance estimates, as I don't want a route to be too long or short, and whilst I'm still getting used to the various backroads I'm picking I'll continue this way. The urban and motorway sections are a doddle by comparison, for I know my way around Auckland quite well, and in reality the observing task isn't an exercise in orienteering but seeing an Associate deal with varying traffic situations.

With the Central North Island group not having an Examiner as yet, we're relying on having this task performed by our Auckland colleagues. I like to think that we'll grow to the point where we can independently perform the cross-check and examiner tasks in due course, but for the time being this is how it is with limited numbers of Observers. Pretty cool to be part of this growth phase, and I reckon Geoff is quietly chuffed that the huge effort he's put into the region, and us as individual observers, is looking like paying off.

The cycle repeats when the guys we've been coaching to their Advanced Test now, and if they choose to go on to Observing training, then get coached to their Observer Test. That in itself is actually less daunting to me, for if one can make it thru the Observer course then the actual coaching to Observer is not that big a deal. The logistics of getting a Trainee Observer and Associate together on a ride with a Tutor Observer, that's the challenging part!

Early days for me, but I'm enjoying giving up a few hours every second or third week to a worthwhile cause. I'm sure that over time the preparation required for each ride will become more efficient, as I fully accept I'm still learning as I grow into the Observer role. Not that the learning curve will ever end as such, but the efficiency of delivering the Observer function will improve I'm sure.

All in all, if one can find the time and enthusiasm to perform the Observer role, well worth it for the warm fuzzies it brings when one sees an Associate improving!


  1. A thoughtful and well-written piece Rob. I think that pretty much sums up the feelings of everyone who is an Observer. It must be a fairly rare event in life when giving time to the community for a great cause also gives back to us in terms of both pleasure and keeping our own personal standards at a high level. (And maybe spilling over into our professional lives too). Nice one mate!

    1. Haha, I like your subtle cryptic comment in brackets. Thoroughly enjoyable is where it's at for now, which will no doubt be tempered by some challenging moments at some point. Glad I followed your suggestion of keeping a blog, for it's worthwhile for those who start out as Associates. It helps of course that I don't mind laughing at my own, now past tense, challenges as an Associate!