In this video, we have a look back at the HSE Virtual Series Congress in June. This is the third clip from Todd Conklin’s seminar and looks at another area where we could perform better through the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has shown that anticipation is not recognized as legitimate information. Have a look at Todd’s video to find out why.
So, let’s look at number two. Anticipation is not recognized as legitimate information. So, this is really interesting because our traditional understanding of risk management has really been built around the idea that you either manage risk or perform work.
Erik Hollnagel calls it the efficiency-thoroughness trade-off. What we’re learning is that, really, this isn’t a trade-off. What it really is, is a paradox. And that traditional anticipation skills that we’ve had in our organizations for years have not been seen or really recognized as legitimate data by which our management and our operations people can make decisions.
Now, hold on before you jump in there, this is kind of the struggle around this notion of leading data. So, you haven’t been a safety person for more than five minutes if you’ve not had a discussion around leading metrics, right? Everyone wants leading metrics.
Well, what we’re really saying is that I’m not certain we want leading metrics. That’s another discussion and I’m glad to have it with you, but there probably is no such thing as a leading metric, although you’ve probably heard people talk about them today. I would guess if truly effective leading metrics existed, we’d already have them. I mean, they’d be out there and a part of our discussion.
What we really want is not the ability to predict failure, what we really want is the ability to anticipate the absence of capacity. So, instead of going out and doing a classic threat assessment, a risk assessment, this threat is really high, and managing the threat, which is good, we should do it, what we’re really learning is that we want to go out and look at where this threat is high and actually manage the controls.
A paradox is different than a trade-off. A trade-off says one or the other, whereas a paradox says one and the other. So you have to be productive and safe. You have to be stable and reliable.
And the challenge you’re seeing and you’re sitting through meetings already that this discussion’s a part of it, is that we’re moving from a world that really was optimized around the notion of efficiency. How can we get the most bang for the buck? How can we get the most products for the least amount of effort, right? How can we give the shareholder the most value?
Those are all really important metrics. That’s the value proposition that organizations really live and die by. But that thinking, oddly enough, is being replaced now from an organization that was optimized towards efficiency to an organization that is optimized towards resilience.
So, suddenly your place at the table as a health and safety professional is changing. Because your place at the table really allows the conversation to talk about this notion of capacity. When this fails, not if it fails, when this fails, we have the ability to count on this process or this process or this process.
And suddenly those business continuity discussions that we’re having, those are really important continuity discussions that you have a loud and clear voice. Anticipation is not seen as legitimate because it’s mostly focused on weak signals. So, now, instead of looking for predictive metrics, for leading metrics, what we want to look for are small, weak signals that exist in the process during successful work.
So, those weak signals, those are there when normal happens. So, suddenly, near miss reporting, good catch reporting, things like that, those become really important, not because of the presence of risk, risk is always in your workplace, but because they help you anticipate where your system is not very resilient.
And this crisis has allowed us to listen to weaker signals earlier in order to actually create the ability to survive and thrive as an organization. And you’ve seen this, I mean, I’ll give you one more example, because it’s worth talking about. In the post-COVID restart operations, you’re having to make lots of decisions very quickly based upon relatively small amounts of information.
That’s not the way we normally did it. We normally would get a lot of information, really weigh that information out, and make strategic decisions that were more like a grand solution. But now, we’re in a position where what we’re doing is we’re actually making small micro-adjustments, small micro experimentations in order to make the process exist day to day, not year to year.
And you know this because you’re deep in the middle of it.