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HOP Implementation: A brief guide to getting started with Human & Organizational Performance

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Human and Organizational Performance | HOP Principles | What is HOP? | Getting Started with HOP

So, you have decided to do things ‘differently’ in your organization – you have decided to bring Human & Organizational Performance to life within your workplace – what now?

Let's start by defining Human & Organizational Performance.

What is Human & Organizational Performance?

To me, at the core of it all, Human and Organizational Performance is a fundamental shift in how we view people. It is the move away from viewing people as problems to be managed, and the shift towards viewing people as problem solvers. While there are several other vital bits and pieces, Human and Organizational Performance is about starting from a place of trust, embracing the human element of our work worlds, understanding that people show up to work to do a good job, and constantly and deliberately learning from those that do the actual work. In our traditional approaches to the safety of work (and most other things for that matter) we often have started from a position of distrusting our fellow humans; we have viewed people as the source of problems and pain within our organizations. People have been viewed as the last great problem to fix, as the last step between us and organizational utopia. We have viewed people as the problem to fix, and we seek to fix problems. We have built systems of distrust constructed of endless rules, ones that are policed via mechanisms of constant surveillance, oversight, and harsh punishment for "wrongdoers." We have tried and tried to comply and punish our way to safety excellence, but it has failed us time and time again. Not only has this distrust of our fellow humans been a driving force for our mediocre (at best) approaches to the safety of work, but it has also been a harmful negative that has inflicted unnecessary pain and suffering upon those that diligently serve our organizations. This distrust of our fellow humans, and this desire to punish those “untrustworthy” and “uncaring” humans that we believe to be causal of our problems has led us away from safety - away from learning and improving - not closer to it. It has left our workforces fearful and untrusting, devoid of the ability to be honest with the organization and unable to tell “real deal” stories about how work normally occurs, and it has left our organizations blind to vital information and learnings.

The Principles of Human & Organizational Performance (HOP)

  • Error is Normal

  • Blame Fixes Nothing

  • Context Drives Behaviors

  • Learning Is Vital

  • How We Respond Matters

The principles and concepts of Human and Organizational Performance move us away from these misguided and harmful beliefs. Rather than viewing people as the problem and attempting to cure our work worlds of events and problems by seeking to cure people of their humanity, HOP teaches us to embrace our fellow humans, to defer to their expertise, to learn from them, to seek to understand, and to understand that their “know-how” and knowledge is vital to the success of our organizations. Human and Organizational Performance teaches us that error is normal, that no one chooses to make a mistake, that blame fixes nothings, and that blaming only moves us away from the so needed learnings we require to improve. Allow me to circle back to the key point, Human and Organizational Performance is a fundamental shift in how we view people – people are problem solvers, and we must create systems of trust so that they can do just that. One of the first jabs at Human and Organizational Performance that many leaders take, especially those more comfortable with very vertical "command and control" styles of management, is that it is “too fluffy,” “too squishy,” or “too soft,” but nothing could be further from the truth. As a close friend, one who is a high-level leader in the utility space once shared with me, “Human and Organizational Performance lets me hear the raw and the real – that is what I need to make better decisions as a leader.” Human and Organizational Performance is not about the squishy bits, it’s not about being fluffy or soft, HOP is about getting down to the nitty gritty and digging into “raw and real” conversations and learnings. There is nothing squishy or soft about an employee sharing with you their near-death experiences. There is nothing fluffy about hearing the story of a worker who amputated their finger but was forced to choose between reporting the event and getting medical attention or seeking medical care on their own so that they could keep their job. The learnings and conversations that Human and Organizational Performance will bring about within your organization will be the rawest and realest conversations you have ever experienced.

Embrace the Journey

While deep and fundamental organizational change efforts can be quite the daunting task, do not be fearful of taking up the challenge of making things better. Yes, these efforts take time and sometimes move painfully slow. Yes, of course, the organization will sometimes regress or fall back to their ‘old ways.’ Yes, you will encounter leaders that are just not onboard or actively seek to derail these efforts. But these are all just points along the way – steppingstones of organizational betterment – leading you towards a better workplace. Remember, this is a journey…

As with any journey, you will hit bumps, jumps, and roadblocks along the way. Embrace the process – accept the process. I myself struggled with some of these challenges in my first experiences with bringing HOP to life – I particularly struggled with the “moving backwards” from time-to-time piece. When you find yourself feeling frustrated, zoom out. Take a step back and take in where the organization has been, where it is at, and where it is going – the amount of positive change you will see will often surprise you and ease your frustrations.

Because your organization is unique, your journey will also be extremely unique – it should be. Take these ideas, these concepts, and thoughts on bringing Human and Organizational Performance to life and create a bespoke approach to effectively bring about positive change within your work world.

Do not approach these concepts with a traditional mindset

So very often I see companies attempting to ‘force fit’ Human and Organizational Performance into their organizations, attempting to meticulously plan every step of this journey onto a timeline of ‘HOP implementation,’ or trying to ‘do HOP’ using the same organizational methods and tactics they have used for much of everything else – using an approach akin to the rolling out of a ‘safety program.’ But Human and Organizational Performance is not a program and approaching it like one only creates headaches and problems along the way – it only stifles progress or leaves you with some bastardized end product far from the true intent of these concepts and ideas.

These concepts and ideas are different, so we must approach them differently. Be very cautious of typical organizational desires to simplify, standardize, and force fit to create progress and change – these methods always backfire. Human and Organizational Performance is a set of beliefs that shape our programs, tools, behaviors, and language (Baker, 2019) – is it not a program to ‘roll out.’ We simply cannot shift beliefs through the application of a program, we cannot just “roll out” new assumptions into our organizations, we cannot bring about this change by trying to force fit it in. You must grow Human and Organizational Performance within your organization by reshaping organizational assumptions and beliefs around error, blame, learning, the definition of safety, and on…

Human and Organizational Performance is not a program, but you should have a plan. You need a blueprint; you need a recipe for the cake. You need to bring the right ingredients together at the right times – you don’t want to be going for a moist and delicious chocolate cake and end up with a tart – no one wants a tart. You need to have the right people working on the right things at the right times. You need to figure out what your little "HOP army" looks like, how that works, where your ’bright spots’ are, where you are going, and how you think you’re going to get there. Do not get completely tied down by planning – this plan should never be rigid. It will move, shift and shuffle – just as it should. Things will get pushed out and other things will get pulled in – but you need a road map to get you in the general vicinity.

A few planning considerations prior to beginning the journey

Organizational Readiness

Where is your organization currently at? Seek to understand the current state of your particular organization and define where it is that you want to go. This assessment of organizational readiness will allow you craft a customized approach based off the current reality of your organization. It will help you begin your journey at the right time and allow it to start on a sure footing.

Core Team Creation

Who are your internal champions – those knowledgeable and passionate folks – that will help bring this change about? Find them, get them together, and set them up for success by providing them adequate time, resources, and support to take on this task.

Employee Involvement

How are you going to place your workforce at the center of this change – how are you going to ensure that they have a voice? That their voice is heard? Be very cautious to not “do HOP” to your organization. You can help avoid this by involving your workforce in these change efforts. Involve your employees, listen to them, learn from them, and be sure that their voices – their ideas and their thoughts – shine through and are shown in the results of these efforts.

It is more of a ‘framework’ than a plan…

In a 2019 article on the Safety Differently website, Andrea Baker describes “5 Phases” of Human and Organizational Performance integration:

  • Leadership Interest

  • Building HOP fluency

  • Operational Learning

  • Alignment

  • Safeguard Management

Let explore each of these in a little more depth…

Leadership Interest

Seek to gain leadership support within your organization and find leadership champions or sponsors to leverage while on this journey. These Human and Organizational Performance allies are crucial to the overall growth and success of these concepts within your company.

What this looks like…

  • Building relationships with leaders

  • Mentoring leaders – especially through challenges

  • Teaching of HOP concepts to leadership

  • Making a case for change

  • Possibly bringing in outside resources to help shift views

Building HOP fluency

This is the education component of your journey – the embedding of these concepts and ideas within your organization. Through the teaching of things like Human and Organizational Performance fundamentals, learning teams, and more, you will establish a base-level of knowledge around this new approach. Over time you will begin to notice subtle changes in the language of your organization – your organization will begin to sound like a HOP focused company – your company will begin to “speak HOP.”

What this looks like…

  • Providing HOP information sessions

  • Conducting HOP fundamental training

  • Teaching the use of learning teams and learning explorations

  • Shifting organizational messaging towards Human and Organizational Performance

Operational Learning

At this point in your journey, you are beginning to embrace tools like learning teams and learning explorations – the organization is shifting towards a deliberate and passionate focus on learning, especially from those that do the work. Do not just seek this learning after an event or operational surprise, go out and ‘learn on purpose’ about everyday normal.

What this looks like…

  • Starting to use learning teams and learning explorations more and more

  • More and more focus on the gaining of context rich information – the old answers (things like “someone messed up”) are no longer palatable

  • Beginning to see more independent use of learning teams throughout the organization – people will bring you learning teams they did on their own

  • Increasing curiosity about normal work


At a certain point of maturity in your Human and Organizational Performance journey, it will be time to begin to embed HOP principles and operational learning mechanisms into your existing systems, processes, and programs. Sometimes this also calls for a healthy dose of decluttering – the getting rid of things that counter to these principles or simply not useful or no longer needed – to move things forward by the parting of ways with things that can not be brought into alignment.

What this looks like…

  • Altering of processes and programs to bring them into alignment with HOP principles

  • The embedding of HOP principles and learning mechanisms into processes and programs

  • Decluttering of rules, processes, and programs

  • The elimination of rules, processes, and programs that cannot be brought into alignment with HOP principles

  • Creating a HOP framework to ensure that HOP is sustainable

Safeguard Management

Now, with these concepts and ideas firmly embedded within the organization, and by using this operational intelligence gained through operational learning mechanisms (such as learning teams or learning explorations) the organization seeks to continuously and collaboratively design, better, and manage safeguards and lifesaving controls.

What this looks like…

  • Bettering of existing controls and safeguards

  • Bettering of system designs

  • Ongoing operational learning around areas of critical risk

  • Periodic testing of safeguards and controls

You will find these considerations and ‘5 Phases’ to be crucial when plotting out your organizations journey towards Human and Organizational Performance. Put plenty of thought into these areas as you begin to think about bringing the concepts to life within your workplace, but do not get overly consumed with or tied to rigid planning. There is not “one right way” to bring these fundamental changes about – there is not a true guidebook to making these changes happen. Plot a course and start moving in the right direction, keep your plan flexible and understand that it will change along the way.

Doing things backwards

I have seen Human and Organizational Performance brought about “backwards” on several occasions – brought to life within organizations with very little high-level or corporate-level leadership interest, but using its success to gain leadership interest.

In these cases, Human and Organizational Performance is applied more at a local or group level. These ‘bright spots’ then act as a catalyst for HOP growth throughout the organization. When the benefits of doing things differently begin to surface, those up through the organization will typically be quick to take notice. This is demonstrating success by doing – doing things differently at a local level, and then pushing those success stories up through the company. Good results are hard to deny, and they quickly lead to more and more excitement and support.

These more localized efforts usually start as somewhat ‘grassroots” endeavors – coming to life through the growing of HOP fluency, the letting go of blame, the changing of reactions, the embracing of learning – in a particular subculture of the organization.

While this seems counter to accepted guidance around organizational change efforts – and it is in many ways – I have seen this work well. Especially in organizations with high-level leaders that are just not quite ready to take the jump, or with upper-level leadership teams that simply do not see the need for change. These ‘backward’ approaches can definitely be useful if your organization finds itself wanting change, but without a clear commitment from up within the leadership chain.

Leverage the already mentioned “5 Phases” of Human and Organizational Performance integration (Baker, 2019) while seeking out this more localized approach as well – just apply them in a local fashion. As an example, rather than seeking out executive commitment, this “leadership interest” might look more like support from a local manager, supervisor, or team leader.

An easy place to start

If it’s all just a bit too much for your organization to take on all at once, I often recommend starting

Human & Organizational Performance | Learning Teams | Sam Goodman

out by conducting a few learning teams or learning explorations. Pick an area that could use a little improvement, a particular pain point or problem, or simply choose a job or task that you would like to learn more about and give it a shot. Go out and use these operational learning mechanisms to render your workplace better, and to tell the story of normal work – of reality – up through your organization.

The use of the approaches to gaining operational intelligence are low risk and high reward – they are the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the viability and usefulness of doing things a bit differently.

Temper your expectations

As I have already mentioned, I struggled initially with the overall slowness of change along with the occurrences of leaders stepping back into our more traditional mindsets as I started leading these types of change efforts. It is very easy to find yourself frustrated and disappointed if you do not take time to temper your expectations as you begin on this journey. It is also vital to understand that the indicators of “big progress” within your organization will often be found in the little things.

One of the best places I have found to listen for progress is by listening to the stories of workers within your organization. When you hear stories of things getting better, of things making more sense, of better experiences, those little things are huge indicators of success. Just the fact that people are sharing their stories of ‘normal work’ tells you that things are moving in the right direction. When you are feeling worn out and tired, go spend some time listening to the stories contained within your organization.

Stick to the principles

No matter where your organization finds itself with it Human and Organizational Performance

Principles of Human & Organizational Performance | Sam Goodman

journey, always keep the 5 Principles of Human and Organizational performance at the heart of your efforts – lean into them, lean into the concepts of Safety Differently, and lean into these 10 ideas.

When things get challenging, lean in that much harder. When things start to move backwards, lean into them even harder. When you find yourself confused or unsure of what to do in a particular situation, allow these principles, concepts, and ideas to guide you through them – they will not steer you wrong.

Your company is unique…

Your company is very unique, so your journey will also be very unique. Embrace this uniqueness, it’s what make your company great! Your uniqueness should shine through in your plan, and in how you approach bringing the concepts and ideas to life within your work world. Take these ideas and– while sticking to the principles – creatively apply them within your organization. Take these ideas and form fit them to make things work effectively for your company. While leaning heavily into the principles and all of the ideas we have discussed, and while listening and learning from your workforces, shape your organizations very own unique path towards better. Do this and amazing things will follow.

This journey is worth it

I have had the distinct honor and pleasure of being involved in various companies’ journeys towards the application of these concepts and ideas, and I am here to tell you that zero percent of them have regretted it. I have led these changes while working internally for organizations (that were historically very traditionally based) and had the opportunity to see and feel these changes for myself. This journey is long and slow, but it is worth it.

To see and feel the results of Human and Organizational Performance coming to life within your organization is breathtaking – witnessing the changes quite literally gives you goosebumps. As I reflect back on the first time that I was presented with an opportunity to lead this type of effort for an organization – while I was working for a large organization in the power generation space – what stands out most are the stories.

I heard stories like that of a 30-year veteran of this particular organization describing how, after an event, they were embraced by the company instead of being blamed and fired. I listened to a new employee compare this organization to their last, highlighting the positive difference in their working experience. I heard story after story – too many to share here – each describing how this fundamental shift directly and positively impacted their working lives. These stories are not just ‘tall tales,’ they are powerful indicators of a move in a better direction. They are a demonstration of bettering the working lives – the lived experiences – of those that reside within our organizations.

What are the stories that currently make up your work world? If you could tap into them right now, what would you hear? Would you hear stories of learning and betterment, or would you hear stories of blame, shame, pain, and employee suffering? Your employees have stories – stories your organization is helping to shape – Are you listening? Are you helping to make them better or worse?

These ideas and concepts of Human & Organizational Performance will help you revolutionize your approaches to the safety of work (and practically everything else), and they will aid you bringing about transformational change to your work worlds – through their use you will craft better stories. By bringing these concepts to life, you are deliberately building a better work world and creating a much more positive lived experience for your employees.

The journey is worth it because the people within your organization – those that work tirelessly to get shit done and to get shit done well – they are worth it. Your people, those workers that have been entrusted to your care, they are worth it.

Here’s to the constant pursuit of doing things better – to making work (and the safety of work) suck just a bit less – for everyone getting shit done within our work worlds.

A few more resources

The 10 Ideas

In my recent book, "10 Ideas to Make Safety Suck Less," I explore 10 key actionable ideas to help you bring Human and Organizational Performance to life within your organization. Below you will find several free resources relating to these ideas. You can also pick up the full text on Amazon or Audible.

The 10 Ideas - Select Ideas & Actions
Download PDF • 2.05MB

10 Ideas - Primers and Ideas (1)
Download PDF • 7.67MB

Learning Teams

Getting started with operational learning is a vital component of your journey. Below you will find a couple resources relating to Learning Teams, Learning Explorations, and Discovering Pain Points...

Quick Guide - Learning Teams and Explorations (1)
Download PDF • 1.53MB

Discovering Pain Points (1)
Download PDF • 1.61MB

The HOP Nerd Resources

Be sure to check out for more free resources that I'm certain you will find helpful on your journey. Check back often as I am periodically adding more!

Good luck on your journey! I can’t wait to see the awesome things you bring about within your organizations.

The HOP Nerd LLC

I work with clients throughout industry - providing services to organizations operating in manufacturing, healthcare, construction, oil & gas, mining, power generation, utilities, and more - focusing on operationalizing HOP and creating sustainability along the way.

I would love to be your trusted Human & Organizational Performance resource and advisor.

What people are saying...

"Sam Goodman is a compressed gas cylinder that falls off the back of a moving truck when the cap pops off and launches. Passion, intensity, purpose, and expertise!"

"Sam offers flexibility, passion, and know-how to help your organization begin, or go further on its HOP journey..."

"Sam takes the time to understand our unique challenges and provides tailored solutions that have had a significant impact on our performance..."

"I highly recommend Sam's services to anyone seeking to get better at organizational learning and improvement..."

So, if you are looking for a trusted advisor to help you bring HOP to life within your organization, need help with learning teams, or are looking for someone to help you take your organizations efforts around learning and improving to the next level…

Some areas I commonly help with:

- HOP Fundamentals

- Learning Team Facilitation

- Learning Team Facilitator Coaching

- Speaking & Workshops

- Site Engagements

- Assessments

- Pre/Post-Event Learning Reviews

- Planning

- Learning Explorations & Pulsing

- Ongoing Support and Advisement

- & More!

Let's get started!

Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) |  Sam Goodman

Sam Goodman

Owner & HOP Consultant
The HOP Nerd, LLC


About the Author

Sam Goodman is the founder and independent Human and Organizational Performance practitioner of The HOP Nerd LLC. He is the author of multiple books focused on Human & Organizational Performance, the safety of work, and the safety profession, and the host and producer of The HOP Nerd Podcast. Sam is an experienced safety and HOP practitioner, accomplished author, passionate speaker, and respected consultant and coach.

With extensive experience in the field, Sam has worked with a diverse range of industries, including commercial nuclear generation, utilities, construction, manufacturing, energy, healthcare, transportation, and more. He has collaborated with numerous organizations to operationalize and embed HOP principles and techniques.

In addition to his consulting work, Sam is a prolific author, sharing his knowledge and insights through various publications. His latest book, the best-selling "10 Ideas to Make Safety Suck Less," has become a vital resource for professionals in the HOP field.

Sam offers the flexibility, passion, and know-how to help your organization begin, or go further on its HOP journey.

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