I see it as very significant – and worthy of examination, thought, and innovation – the fact that a myriad of studies discussing incidents/outages at mission critical sites point to human error as a major factor.  (In the studies I’ve reviewed over the years, human error is cited as the major factor in 40 to 70% of them, depending on the industry.)  Disconcerting statistics, to be sure – but it also means that dealing with the human aspects of mission critical operations could yield great results in preventing failure.

While it’s equally important to examine and resolve the other reasons for failure at mission critical sites, human error isn’t addressed in the same way that other failures are.  Mechanical and technological failures can generally be solved by “throwing money at the problem” and applying some good engineering.  Examining battery design and failure modes is a good example to illustrate this point.  By installing a battery monitoring system to address this particular issue, you can probably solve 75% of your battery-related problems.

In the case of human-caused outages, however, the issues are multi-faceted and interlaced with complexity that can only be examined in statistical models and terms.  (Reminds me of the complexity of nuclear particle physics, but I digress…)  I see that the human aspects of mission critical operations presents an area where large strides need to be made, and this is why I will dedicate this blog to the subject.

So in the months ahead, I will explore the following areas with you, and I hope you will find it interesting, of value, and worthy of dialogue:

Leadership:  Leadership provides the example, expectations, and vision for the mission critical organization. They set the priorities for what issues merit time and resources.  If you notice, actions – not words – tell the real agenda.

Culture:  Another area where leadership plays the significant role, the culture of the organization is reflective of its leadership.  (That’s not to say that the organization’s culture will be the same as the culture of the leaders…More on this in later blogs.)

Procedures and Policies:  Simply put, these are instructions to your team around how to do or get something accomplished.  They reflect the opinions of operators, engineers, designers, and management which can be flawed due to lack of information, conflicting perspectives, and competing goals.

Hiring:  In my opinion, the single most important activity that can determine the success of a mission critical organization is hiring.  So I ask the question, by your actions, the actions of your organization and its leaders, how much time (and importance) do you devote to hiring?  What do you really know about the people that you hire?  What should you know?

People Tools:  I’m not talking hammers here. These are techniques that you can use to make changes to your behavior that hopefully will in turn change the way your organization behaves.  In the world of people – just as in physics – for every action, there is a reaction.  It’s just not so easy to predict.

Cross-Pollination: When cross-pollination takes place in the biological world, interesting things happen; and sometimes that means a stronger, more robust organism.  The same applies to mission critical facilities.  What can the healthcare industry learn from the IT world?  How can we apply military philosophies to high-tech manufacturing?  Can aerospace techniques help us solve maintenance problems at oil refineries?  There are many great minds out there working on similar issues and problems – and some of them have been solved.  Will those ideas help you?  If you think about it, isn’t that what blogs are about?

The topics I intend to explore here will, I hope, be of interest to all.  But my thoughts are focused specifically for the leaders of mission critical organizations as they have the most impact on the organization’s success.  I look forward to our discussions and gaining insights to your world.

As we start down this path, I encourage you to teach somebody something every day.  It’s something I often encourage new managers and leaders in the organizations I work with to do.  But this advice is not just for leaders; it’s really for everyone.  If you want to build credibility, trust, and a relationship with anyone…teach them something.  It is one of the ways that we show appreciation for people.  By teaching someone, we demonstrate that we care enough about them to help them, to give them something that is not just for the moment, but rather something for a lifetime.  What can be a more valuable gift?  Imagine the impact that you can make if you do this for a week, a month, or a lifetime.


Please leave your comments here or you can send me your suggestions at tvergon@sapientservicesllc.com. I look forward your thoughts and suggestions around the human aspects of mission critical organizations.