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From Pitfalls to Windfalls: How Organisation Safety Improves Performance

Posted in: Communication, Error management, Safety Started by

From Pitfalls to Windfalls: How Organisation Safety Improves Performance

Greek philosopher, Cicero once said, “to err is human but to preserve in error, is only the act of a fool.” Every day, errors happen. Incidents happen. Arsonists burn down homes cars crash, sprinklers fail to discharge water and sometimes, your dog bites a guests. How you react to such incidents tells a lot about how you prevent future incidents? Do you blame or do you learn some lessons and move on?

Very often, lessons are learned, however, not all lessons learned, are communicated well enough to everyone who needs to know and when they need to know. As a result of these lapses, some critical information is lost and some incidents happen over and over. Devastating! When this happens, most companies hire and fire! Few have what it takes to learn the painful lessons that will serve them in turning pitfalls into windfalls.

Organisations that embrace pitfalls as learning opportunities, ultimately find profits through greater performance and productivity. On the other hand, organisations that are adverse to pitfalls dig themselves in, instead of digging themselves out. Here are 5 ways to untangle or to turn the pitfalls into windfalls (profits).

# 1 Research the Root Cause of the Incidents
Major incidents seldom happen over night. They often result from multiple mistakes and failures that have been ignored over a long period of time. An effective root-cause analysis allows an organisation to understand where things went wrong and how to mitigate promptly.

When a root cause analysis is conducted and results well communicated and integrated into an organisation ‘s body of knowledge, the awareness serves as intelligence. Such intelligence comes in handy to circumvent future incidents.

# 2 Recognise the Hotspots
Reconnaissance enables an organisation to observe the hotpots or potential places where things may go wrong. This form of anticipation ensures that problems are detected early and action is taken to mitigate or reduce the impact of such a threat.
When this sort of sensing happens and turns a pitfall into a profit situation, the company grows thanks to its ability to its alertness to emerging risks and threats that require urgent attention before they become near misses or mishaps.

# 3 Review to Re-align Your Strategy
Organisations that routinely review their systems to identify omissions and disruptions stand a better chance at discovering emerging opportunities. Ongoing learning and feedback allows you not only to pre-empt but also to reposition for new opportunities. This gives birth to a competitive advantage structurally and strategically over competitors who do not engage in this type of activity.

In early 2000s Finnish cell phone maker, Nokia benefited significantly be re-aligning its strategy after observing that an incident at a Philips microchips factory in New Mexico, USA will undermine its business position. Thanks to their quick observation and response, the company went on to outpace leading Swedish competitor Ericsson. When Ericson realized the situation two weeks later, it was too late.

# 4 Reverse Practical Drift
Practical drift happens when the users of a system or process deviate significantly from the specified guidelines from the planners or manufacturers. When this happens (either by omission or commission), the system may be jeopardized from an engineering or procedural standpoint. Over the course of time, such a deviation may result in the mal-functioning of a system, thereby resulting in an accident or incident. To avert such a situation, one must find the shift to fix the drift.

Practical drift was responsible in the 1990s friendly fire incident in which US Air Force F-16s fighters short down fellow US helicopters on routine mission in the Gulf War. Further studies have found that this happens in many organisations around the world.

# 5 Reign in Cultural Loopholes Most organisation and teams are pretty stable. This notwithstanding, some organisations are more resilient than others. Highly resilient organisations that have mastered error management are open to learning approaches and not resistant to change. Some organisations have succeeded in implementing major safety programmes that have gone contrary to their culture, such as Korean air in the aftermath of multiple air crashes some years ago.

Whenever an organisation succeeds in wrestling through a cultural shift, and manages to reduce risks, such organisations ultimately position themselves to profit from the peril or pitfalls.

Unfortunately, only 30% of companies believe that errors, (mistakes and mishaps) are a major issue. Thanks to this thinking, many organisations deny themselves greater performance, productivity and profits or windfalls from pitfalls. Are you one of such companies?