Preoccupation with Failure

HROs obsess over failure, but not for the same reasons as other organizations. Instead of operating on the assumption that failure is a universally bad thing, to be avoided at all costs, HROs treat failure as an unavoidable outcome of doing business, an intrinsic property of their environment. HROs are compulsively driven to identify these failures at all costs, as early as possible. They then try to use small failures as a tool by which they can avoid large disasters.

Reluctance to Simplify

The easiest way to make members of an HRO nervous is to explain the challenges they face in simplistic, dumbed-down terms. By maintaining a healthy respect for the complexity and unpredictability of the environments in which they operate, HROs seek more complicated answers, backed by observation and data. Simple models and frameworks make an HRO wonder what is being left out or ignored, and how that might bite them later.

Sensitivity to Operations

HROs formulate grand strategies just like any other organization, but they differ in that they put equal emphasis on the tactical requirements that make the strategy work. HRO leaders don't do "the vision thing" leaving underlings and subordinates to hammer out the details. HROs want to know exactly how things are really working, not just how they expect them to work, and they gather data and knowledge from a variety of sources to make the links between strategy and operations visible.

Commitment to Resilience

Recovery from a failure says a lot about whether an organization is an HRO or not. HROs, knowing that they will experience a failure at some point for some reason, put time and effort into imagining how that failure will occur and what they should do when it arrives. As a result, HROs tend to fall down more softly and get back up more quickly than other organizations. Like a fighter who knows how to take a punch, an HRO rebounds and gets back into the fight rather than being knocked out of it.

Deference to Expertise

HROs structure themselves around a different decision-making system, one that is more flexible and diverse. Hierarchies are important, but not when they hinder people who know what is going on from acting on that knowledge immediately. By relying on the skills and judgments of the people who are closest to the systems in question, HROs can gather data on potential problems more quickly and respond with more agility to changes in operations.

 
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