All posts by Steven Shorrock

Recovery from Command-and-Control: A Twelve-Step Program

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of us in democratic countries would hate to see the rise authoritarianism. When we hear about authoritarian regimes around the world, we feel lucky not to live there. We know that people do not thrive under authoritarianism, where high levels of control suppress the human connectivity, freedom and creativity that give meaning and purpose to life. The same is true of organisations, but here we seem to have to put up with it. In 2012, the UK’s Chartered Management Institute released a report … Continue Reading ››

Six Thinking Hats for Safety

hatsAlmost a year ago on the this blog, Sidney Dekker asked “Can safety renew itself?“. He asked whether the profession was even capable of doing this, with its goal to eliminate what goes wrong; “For a profession that is organized around the elimination, reduction and control of risk, innovation can be a tall order“. Since then, there has been progress. Significantly, a new way of looking at safety has further emerged – … Continue Reading ››

Déformation professionnelle: How profession distorts perspective

167418602_4467a7bdd7If you work in a health and safety role, there is one question that can make for an awkward conversation: "So, what do you do?" I was asked this question at passport control on entering the UK on my Australian passport. I considered my options: safety specialist, ergonomist or psychologist. All three come with baggage; they trigger different preconceptions. As he was an immigration officer in the border security business, I replied "I'm a safety officer", modifying … Continue Reading ››

The principles of punk rock at work

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the time I was born, a new musical genre emerged. Disillusioned with the rock music scene of the ’70s, a new music was created in the garages of the Western world: punk rock. What’s that got to do with work, or safety? With punk rock came an ideology that we could learn from. I recently read Seth Kahn-Egan’s distillation of the principles of punk rock, derived from his “own research into and experience with punk … Continue Reading ››

The use and abuse of ‘human error’

"Oh my God. I told those guys at safety that it was dangerous and one day we would lose concentration and pay for it. I already told those guys at safety that it was very dangerous! We are human and this can happen to us. This curve is inhuman!" These are the distressed words of the injured train driver moments after the train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain on 25 July 2013. The driver can be heard pleading in sorrow, hoping for the safety … Continue Reading ››

Goats in sheep pens

file0001763601813When I was younger, my family had a smallholding with a few animals including chickens, ducks, geese, and few goats - one or two billies and several nannies. Thinking back to these goats made me think about what they can teach us about work in command-and-control organisations. The characteristics of goats, especially curiosity, independence and foraging behaviour, highlight to me how command and control organisations need goat thinkers - constructive rebels including systems thinkers, design thinkers, and humanistic … Continue Reading ››

Risky empathy

if you want to understand riskI saw this poster in an airport some time ago. It is an advert for an insurance company and shows a person in a helicopter with a note, "One thing, if you want to understand risk, you need to get out from behind your desk".  How connected are safety specialists with operational staff and the operational environment, where the day-to-day safety is created, to understand the operational world? How much of our … Continue Reading ››