Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Short Introduction to Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) and Learning Teams

A Convenient Story  “Well, that’s a convenient story,” the company CEO bleared at me through his watery spectacled eyes.   This man was tired.  Not “I didn’t sleep enough last night” tired; he was “I haven’t slept well in 20 years” tired.  Those eyes had seen too many cross faces in the board room, too many hours of a flickering computer screen, too many blurry digital displays reading 3AM, and now they were pointedly fixed on me. “You’re trying to prove … Continue Reading ››

Failure differently

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The above quote, allegedly from psychologist Viktor Frankl*, highlights that while we cannot control what happens to us, we can still direct and influence what and who we become through our subsequent actions and decisions. It reminds us that who we are is not fixed - we … Continue Reading ››

A case for host leadership

If organisations want great performance, their people are the solution. Research consistently shows that improved performance comes from increased engagement with the people doing the work (see for example Gallup, 2012Harter, Schmidt, and Hayes, 2007Nahrgang, J, Morgeson F. & Hofman, 2011). The benefits are across the board - productivity, safety, retention, customer satisfaction and even profitability - ranging from 10% to 50% … Continue Reading ››

Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

Sir’, he said in a pale voice. ‘It was 59 degrees in the engine room that afternoon and I took my helmet off. Not for too long, sir, just a few minutes. I was standing under the blower to cool my head. And then this safety officer comes to me and starts shouting. “Why are you not wearing your helmet? What if you get injured? Who will be responsible for your safety? Did I not … 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 ››

In Defense of the Mayor of Amity Island

Photo taken by and courtesy of Daniel Hummerdal
Jaws is the reason I have to give myself a pep talk before going in the ocean.  The 1975 movie shows what happens when a huge, psychopathic shark with a taste for people meets a small tourist island off the coast of Massachusetts (Spoiler – it doesn’t turn out well for some unsuspecting swimmers). The movie is credited for making the fear … 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 ››

Danger in The Guise of Safety, Today

In his seminal book The Limits of Safety, Scott D. Sagan contrasted two schools of thought to assess the safety performance of the United States nuclear weapon system during the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis: High reliability theory and complexity theory. One of the basic tenets regarding high reliability organizations is that they are able and willing to learn from events. Sagan, however, found that oftentimes, the U.S. military failed to learn from the incidents they … 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 ››