[Infographic] Recognizing and Managing the Unpredictable
One of the most fascinating things about High Reliability Organizations (HROs) is their paradoxical nature. Despite existing in potentially hostile conditions where factors not under their control can emerge at any moment, they achieve the capability to absorb the unexpected and continue operating successfully.
Management gurus like to refer to an essential property of HROs as “mindful organizing.” You may be more accustomed to hearing about mindfulness in yoga, Pilates, or meditation than in organizational management, but there is a common thread. Individuals within HROs are continuously aware of their surroundings and of the on-going sequence of actions and reactions that generate consequences. They observe and do not judge what they see simply based on expectations or experience.
Being able to remain open to interpret activities and outcomes objectively is especially important when failures occur, when the unexpected happens. At these moments, the previously established controls may be inappropriate, or the routine methods ineffective. People in HROs learn by doing continuously, and they adapt.
Running through the 5 principles of HROs, this mindful thread is embedded into the organization’s cultural domain so that it becomes a property of every member from high to low. In this way, it becomes true that every person in an HRO is working toward a common goal or mission.
Managers don’t have to be working in organizations like air traffic control or wildfire suppression to be able to adopt principles of HROs. The idea of mindful organizing implies a steady growth in the organization’s capacities rooted in the intention to achieve perfect reliability in pursuing a common mission. This, of course, is another paradox: no organization can ever achieve perfection, but it makes sense to try.
Our latest infographic, The Making of a High Reliability Organization, introduces the principles of HROs. It is a good place to start.