All posts by Sidney Dekker

Restorative Just Culture Checklist

OK, I relent. I said in “I am not a policy wonk” that I wouldn’t turn Safety Differently into a checklistable, to-do algorithm or procedure. Well, now I have. Or at least in small part.
As most of you know, there are so many ‘Just Culture’ algorithms and flow charts out there, yet all they do is recycle a counterproductive retributive justice paradigm. They always boil down to: who broke the rule, how … Continue Reading ››

The Woolworths Experiment

The most pressing question for many people who are already ‘sold’ on Safety Differently is ‘how do you do it?’ How do you enable and empower people and their organization to develop and implement Safety Differently? This is what micro-experiments help you do. If you’ve seen Safety Differently, the Movie, you will know about ‘The Woolworths Experiment.’ And if you’ve read the book The Safety Anarchist, you will have come across a more … Continue Reading ››

I am not a policy wonk

I coined the term ‘Safety Differently’ in 2012. It was the header of an email I sent to a motley group of company representatives—from Laing O’Rourke, Sunstate Cement, Queensland Rail, Origin Energy and others. I had newly arrived in Australia and had been approached by them to help critically examine the sense of safety ‘getting stuck,’ of a pervasive compliance culture that no longer generated much progress. In the email to invite them to a new round of … Continue Reading ››

Why do things go right?

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash
In his 2014 Safety I and Safety II: The past and future of safety management, Erik Hollnagel makes the argument that we should not (just) try to stop things from going wrong. Instead, we need to understand why most things go right, and then ensure that as much as possible indeed goes right. It seems so obvious. Yet it is light years away from how most organizations … Continue Reading ››

Oil and gas safety in a post-truth world

I spoke at the Oil and Gas Task Force Zero conference 2018 not long ago. Taking the motto of the conference, “Face the Facts,” to heart, I walked the audience through a bunch of recent data from a range of industries on the relationship between injuries/incidents and fatalities. As we have long known (and as has been confirmed by Macondo, Texas City and other disasters in the industry), there is of course no meaningful relationship between … Continue Reading ››

The Safety Profession can be like a Priesthood

Lincoln Eldrige, who probably wouldn’t want to be called a ‘safety professional,’ suggested to me some years ago that the safety profession is like a priesthood. I have always considered this an intriguing assertion, and finally decided to dig into it a bit more. What I found was fascinating parallels between belief systems that manage anxieties and hopes even a post-secular world, and the credentialism of a new priesthood that is (self-)ordained to assuage and inspire those … Continue Reading ››

The original hearts and minds campaign, and the dereliction of behavior-based safety

In 1960, shortly after his election, President Kennedy asked Robert McNamara to become secretary of defense in his new cabinet. McNamara, known as a star and a whiz-kid, had been president of the Ford Motor Company for all of five weeks, so it took a bit of cajoling. But he eventually joined the administration in 1961, taking with him the modernism of Ford’s production lines. A few years into his tenure, with Vietnam taking up ever more resources and … Continue Reading ››

‘Bureaucratic entrepreneurism’ and the growing ‘mental health crisis’ at work

Remember when you could go on company travel and just book the trip? Not anymore. You probably have to do a seven-page risk assessment (whether the trip takes you to the next town over, or to central Africa), which will have to be approved by the next three levels up, and get signatures from all those levels. It is an example of what has sometimes been referred to as ‘bureaucratic entrepreneurism’ (Dekker, 2014). Bureaucracies tend to grow … Continue Reading ››