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What is Human and Organizational Performance?

A shift in our views about people

As a HOP practitioner, and as a voice within the community of practice, I am frequently asked to define Human and Organizational Performance –to give my version of an “elevator pitch” – to provide a quick and clear description of the subject. 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.

The 5 Principles of Human and Organizational Performance (Conklin, 2019)

1. Error is Normal

2. Blame Fixes Nothing

3. Learning is Vital

4. Context Drives Behavior

5. How You Respond Matters

10 ideas to make safety suck less | human and organizational performance | Sam Goodman

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 safety 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 our 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, 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 and concepts of Human and Organizational Performance moves 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 manager 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 the rawest and realest conversations you have ever experienced.

Here is to embracing the raw and real!

Bring about fundamental change within your organization...

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