Julian Valkieser shares his thoughts about High Reliability Organizations and Foresight in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
My past articles were more and more related to Big Data and Foresight. In this article I want to demonstrate the concept of High Reliability Organizations (HRO).
The world is a very complex system. That’s no question. You can’t understand it as a whole. It is impossible. But on macro level, some organizations and companies try to make complexity highly reliable by preparing for the unexpected as much as possible. I was fascinated by this idea and the underlying approach. I believe that you can submit projects with better risk management. Conversely, the procedure of HROs would be exciting for Foresight.
Let me introduce the definition of an HRO, which states that those organizations have a particular behavior regulation and organizational structure. It is characterized to operate at a high percentage of reliability, despite the fact that these organizations act continuously under changing or difficult conditions. Statistically, one would expect a much higher error rate compared to traditional organizations.
HROs are usually structured very complex. When you think of a hospital or an aircraft carrier, there are diverse professional groups in many hierarchies and groupings. If a patient comes to a hospital, he meets doctors, nurses, medical technicians, traditional technicians, employees of the service or management, and certainly more people who contribute in any manner to the smooth workflow in the hospital.
Accompanied by complex team constellations, clear structures and hierarchies are needed. We know it, especially from the military, and here in accordance with aircraft carriers in the extremes. Where responsibilities prevail and decisions must be made in short periods of time, it requires a clear and transparent decision-making process.
One of the essential characteristics of a HRO
Sensitivity for operational processes: The personal sensitivity to the patient and the colleagues is more important than the pure control of data, such as patient records, prescribed medications or recorded data to physical circumstances. Environmental information must also be made available. So you can see new developments that need to be noticed also. But how to get information that have an impact on a particular situation. Environmental factors can be seen, among other things under the description of a "Vuja De".
A Vuja De would be a realization of a previously known routine, you didn’t have before. You were sensitive to this factor in the routine situation and discovered an anomaly, which is previously not noticed. (Sutton, 2001) This observation and a possible recommendation should be added to a manual or guideline to improve knowledge management and the common experience. Additionally, it is also an element of an HRO to adapt policies, practices and specifications constantly.
I'm very interested in the concept of Vuja De and I do not want to see it only as a buzzword, even though it describes what we already applies to many Foresight methods. In my mind, have a look inside HROs and their circumstances, you will certainly derive new insights for Foresight methods from short-term methods like them used in HROs.
Sutton, R. I. (2001): Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation.
© Julian Valkieser 2015