September 8, 2021 | Mark Paradies

Six Steps to Human Performance Improvement

Human performance

What Are the Six Steps to Human Performance Improvement?

Here are the six steps to human performance improvement:

  1. Understand why people make errors.
  2. Understand how to make errors less likely.
  3. Understand why errors are happening at your company.
  4. Remove Hazards and Target if possible.
  5. Choose human performance improvement tools that target the most likely and most important reasons for human errors.
  6. Trend performance and continuously improve using reactive and proactive practices.

Of course, all of the above steps to human performance improvement require management support. Therefore, you will have to continuously develop management’s understanding of human error and of the value that stopping human error provides.

Let’s look at each of the steps in more detail.

1st Step to Human Performance Improvement

Before you can improve human performance, you have to understand why people make errors. My eyes were opened after I had spent five years in the Nuclear Navy. I had seen human errors, but I really didn’t understand why they happened or what we could do to stop them. Our “root cause analysis” seemed to lead to the standard three corrective actions:

  1. Training (usually more training or retraining)
  2. Discipline (starting with telling the operator to be more careful and escalating to Captain’s Mast or even De-Nuking)
  3. Procedures (usually writing a procedure or making the current procedure longer)

Do those actions seem like your standard corrective actions?

But my last job in the Navy was as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois. Luckily, I was able to get a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering with an emphasis on Human Factors. This was a new program and my advisor (Dr. Charles O. Hopkins) and I pretty much got to design the program from scratch.

My first Human Factors course was a real eye-opener. It seemed like every day I learned a new reason why people in the Nuclear Navy made mistakes. And I could see ways to prevent those mistakes.

Over the next two years of intense research and study and with my Nuclear Navy practical experience in high-reliability operations, I became a human factors expert who could understand why people make human errors.

So how will you take the first step to human performance improvement – understanding why people make errors? Keep reading and we will lay out a roadmap for you.

2nd Step to Human Performance Improvement

As I mentioned above, in the course of my studies, I not only could see the reasons for human errors, but I also could see ways to prevent human errors. These were practical improvement ideas that could be implemented in the field. That’s the second step to human performance improvement – understanding how to make human errors less likely.

However, after starting System Improvements, developing TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis, and teaching hundreds of people how to find root causes, I realized that others often couldn’t see practical ways to improve human performance. They kept trying to use the three standard corrective actions (training, discipline, and procedures) that I had previously thought were the standard ways to improve human performance.

Now, it’s not that training, discipline, and procedures aren’t sometimes needed. They may be required. It is just that there are many more, and more effective ways, to improve human performance.

Therefore, I wrote the Corrective Action Helper® Guide as a tool to include in the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System to help people develop more effective corrective actions.

However, there are more human performance improvement tools than those in the guide. Therefore, to develop an effective human performance improvement program, you have to understand the effective, and the not so effective, ways to improve human performance.

Why do you need to understand the not-so-effective ways to improve human performance? Because many times consultants will get the ear of senior management and convince them that the not-so-effective ways to improve human performance are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Slick Speaker

They will have “evidence” that is mainly based on regression to the mean data that proves they are right. And you need to know why these techniques don’t work to help your management avoid implementing tools that don’t work and may even cause culture problems and coverups of problems.

Again, continue reading and we will explain how to learn the effective and not-so-effective ways to improve human performance.

3rd Step to Human Performance Improvement

Understanding why errors are happening at your company is the third step to human performance improvement.

Why do you need to understand why human errors are happening at your company? Because you don’t want to try to do every best practice at once. This is overwhelming. You need to target your efforts to the problems that are causing the most significant errors. Errors that cause fatalities or near-fatalities. Errors that lead to expensive downtime. Errors that cause your most significant quality issues.

If you target the most significant causes of human errors first, you will get the most impact from your human performance improvement program. This will help you maintain management support.

How do you understand why errors are happening at your company? You need an advanced root cause analysis system and you need to implement it BEFORE you start your human performance improvement program.

This probably should have been the first step to improve human performance accept, you may not understand WHY you need an advanced root cause analysis system unless you understand why people make errors (Step 1).

Many believe that inadequate root cause analysis tools (Fishbone Diagrams, 5-Whys, or Cause-and-Effect) are sufficient to find root causes. They aren’t. If you don’t understand why you probably haven’t completed step one. But here are some articles that will help you understand why these tools are insufficient…

And here is a video…

Therefore, you need to implement TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis NOW and start collecting your statistics about why people are making mistakes.

Here is a video about the fundamentals of root cause analysis that are the basis for the TapRooT® System…

4th Step to Human Performance Improvement

Removing Hazards and Targets is the fourth step to human performance improvement.

What is a Hazard and what is a Target?

A Hazard is a source of energy that can cause damage to a target. A Target may be a person, equipment, the environment, your product, … anything you don’t want to damage.

In the diagram above, we also show several Safeguards. In the diagram, two have failed and one succeeded to keep the energy (the Hazard) from the Target.

Human errors may have caused the failures of the two Safeguards. But if the Hazard could be removed, we wouldn’t have to worry about the Safeguard and why it failed (thus the human error).

The same may be true if you can remove the Target. At least you have reduced the impact of the failure of the Safeguards if a Target is not harmed.

Let me give you an example.

One of the world’s worst major accidents was Bhopal. A very hazardous chemical was released that killed 2,259 people (the official estimate) and injured hundreds of thousands, many seriously.

So, if you could make the same pesticide without using the hazardous chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC), then the accident would not have happened even if human errors occurred. That’s an example of removing the Hazard.

Also, if the chemical plant would have had a significantly large boundary around the facility where people were excluded, off-site injuries and deaths could be prevented. That is an example of removing the Target.

5th Step to Human Performance Improvement

Choose human performance improvement tools that target the most likely and most important reasons for human errors is the fifth step to human performance improvement.

In the 2nd step, you learned the tools needed for human performance improvement, and in the 3rd step, you learned why errors were being made at your facility. Now you are ready to choose which human performance improvement tools that you will apply to achieve effective human performance improvement.

Choosing the right tools is a key part of developing a truly effective program and avoiding wasting people’s time. If you implement ineffective techniques, people in the field will lose interest in the program. If the techniques aren’t effective, management support for the program will rapidly wane.

6th Step to Human Performance Improvement

This is it. The last step to human performance improvement. You need to trend performance and continuously improve. That makes this the never-ending step.

plan-do-check-act

You might think this step is the easiest. That trending and making improvements is something that everyone understands. But, as in almost every other step we’ve described above, there are advanced techniques that you need to apply to get the most from this step.

Instead of describing all the details of trending and continuous improvement, we will refer you to a book:

Read it and you will be ready for step six.

Roadmap to Develop Your Program

How do you learn what you need to know to implement a successful custom human performance improvement program?

EASY

Easy! We’ve developed a 2-Day Stopping Human Error Course that is GUARANTEED!

Guarantee

Attend this course, go back to work, and use the techniques
you have learned to stop human error. If you don’t find
new ways to improve human performance and
if you and your management don’t agree that your
efforts to improve human performance are much
more effective, just return your course materials
and we will refund the entire course fee

CLICK HERE for the course outline:

The course can be given at your site or you can attend one of our public courses. The public courses can be in-person or virtual. See the upcoming public courses at this LINK. Or call us at 865-539-2139 or CLICK HERE to get a quote for a course at your site.

The course will provide you with a roadmap to design your custom Human Performance Improvement Program.

Don’t Wait! Get Started.

But don’t wait. You want to stop human errors BEFORE they become major accidents. And there is a lot of work to do to develop and implement your custom Human Performance Improvement Program. So, get a course scheduled (either a public course or one at your site) NOW!

Alex Teaching
Alex Paradies teaching the Stopping Human Error Course
Categories
Courses & Training, Human Performance
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