Knowing when I’m doing HOP right.

Paradigm shifts are a curious affair.  Seeded by the reflective acts of innovative thinkers and visionaries, they grow by attracting disciples, experimenters and early adopters until they bloom like a new mainstream perspective within a field of thought or practice.
Just like a plant as a paradigm grows, there is inevitable competition for the very resources that nurture, feed and support them, driving relatively predictable behaviours in response. For the emerging philosophies of Safety II, Safety Differently, and H.O.P, these have ranged from embracement through to outright denial. But what is most concerning, is the deceptive rebranding of existing perspectives under the new and growing paradigm, leading to misleading and often dangerous characterisations.
Safety II, for example, is repeatedly cited by its critics as an anarchic safety paradigm, calling for the absence of rules, processes and control. In response, a number of organisations have adopted what they believe to be the leading approach by removing significant amounts of safety-critical documentation and processes without fully understanding the adopted paradigm or the methods that fall within it such as the Decluttering programs undertaken by Griffith University.
This is far removed from Hollnagel’s original work, misquoting or even ignoring his use of the conjunctive ‘and’ to connect Safety I with Safety II, suggesting instead a dichotomy between Safety I or Safety II that only fuels suspicion and resentment towards the new perspective.
For some organisations, this desire to be early adopters of new thinking can often lead to contradictions, confusion, and misinterpretations of the original concepts by virtue of the organisations existing beliefs, perspectives, and programmes.  In one such case, a UK based organisation adopted a Safety II believing it to be equivalent to their existing behaviour-based safety programme in identifying and reinforcing positive behaviours. Whilst there is some correlation in examining positive aspects of work, they are fundamentally different in their philosophical underpinnings.

This raises a curious point and the topic of this brief article,  what is ‘doing’ Safety II, Safety Differently or H.O.P?

We often hear conversations that may start with the statement that “organisation ‘x’ or consultant ‘y’ is not doing Human and Organisational Performance (H.O.P), right”. Provocative statements such as this not only insinuates that practitioners and organisations already engaged in H.O.P are ‘doing it wrong’, but more importantly and incorrectly, that H.O.P is something that is ‘done’. The determination of whether or not a practice is done right is deeply subjective.  It is not one that is particularly productive without a specific context. However, what is concerning, is the assertion that a paradigm is ‘done’ at all; as a verb, done in the past tense of do, and as an adjective, it can mean no longer happening or existing. Adopting the verbal interpretation of done and do, infers that H.O.P is an action or activity which is performed; an assertion that is inconsistent and incoherent with the paradigmatic origins of H.O.P.

The doing aspects associated with H.O.P are the methods used within that paradigm; judging whether or not those methods are done right or wrong is an appraisal that can only be made with appropriate context and criteria around the chosen method and its environment. Thus it’s provocative and prejudiced to insinuate a right and wrong way in the absence of specific methods, context or criteria.

In summary, Human and Organisational Performance (H.O.P) is a paradigm or perspective through which we examine and understand operational work. The methods or actions used within that paradigm may or may not be conducive to the overarching paradigm, but the paradigm itself is not something that is done, instead, it is a lens that is viewed through.
For one to apply the methods inconsistently with the H.O.P paradigm, they would merely be failing to observe the following five paradigmatic principles of the H.O.P lenses:

  1. Error is normal
  2. Blame fixes nothing
  3. Systems drive behaviour
  4. Learning is vital
  5. Response matters

It’s important to emphasise these points as H.O.P is not a product or service, and so is open to misinterpretation and capitalisation upon by products and services displaced by changing paradigms. Adopting H.O.P within your organisation requires only a shift in perspectives through the five principles, there’s no product or service required to undertake this shift, although support from experienced H.O.P and Safety II consultants such as ourselves are available to help transition organisations through this change in thinking. As for the methods themselves, rather than have others judge whether or not you are ‘doing H.O.P right’, judge for yourselves, if your methods, be they RCA, ICAM, Learning Teams, are consistent with and undertaken from the outset with the H.O.P principles in mind, then you may just be doing H.O.P right!


Southpac International HOPLAB







Andy White
Southpac International H.O.P Coach
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