PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT: How to Prevent Analoculitis and the Rear View Mirror Syndrome (RVMS)

This is a transcript of REPSradio.com Episode 009. To listen to the Podcast or download resources, Click Here."

When I drive my car, unless I’m backing up or looking to change lanes, I spend most of my time watching through the windshield- continually assessing what lies AHEAD.

Oh sure, from time to time, I glance in the rearview mirror…and the side-view mirrors…maintaining the ‘big picture’ of what’s going on around me.

Likely you do the same…when driving your car.

BUT…how about when it comes to the performance of your organization?

Are you navigating using your windshield…or are you spending most of your time looking…backward? Looking in the rearview mirror?

It AMAZES me how so many, perhaps even you, continue to PILOT attempts to make things better based upon the road already travelled- by spending most (if not all) the time looking in the rearview mirror!

So…when it comes to Performance Improvement, what’s your “road ALREADY travelled”?

RESULTS.

Now to be clear… Results are one of the (3) elements of Human Performance. They are WHAT we do, and are…indeed…important.

Results are, essentially, what everything else is designed to produce or create.

Ultimately, GOOD Results are why organizations exist.

Results generate revenue.

This is ONE of the reasons they get so much attention.

BUT when it comes to taking action to improve performance, Results are ONLY a measure of how effective you’ve ALREADY been. As a primary focus, they provide little (if any) value in crafting WHY or HOW to make things better.

And yet so many continue to REACT to Results. They place inordinate emphasis on collecting data about Results, and call it “performance improvement”.

I was talking with a Client just yesterday about some HPI (Human Performance Improvement) training their company paid for a few years ago.

“It was all about how to investigate and correct after something bad had happened,” he told me, “why don’t we focus on how to keep bad things from happening in the first place?”

He gets it.

I sure wish more people did.

As I survey the landscape, it’s easy to see how we came to where we are. I simply want to do my part to help get us off the collective treadmill of continuing to do the same things while hoping for different results.

Within our world of Performance Improvement, systems, databases, and programs used for documenting and analyzing outcomes are often tagged with the title of “corrective action.” This is because the primary purpose is to document errors, events, and “near misses” AFTER they occur, provide a format for investigation and analysis, and often for also documenting efforts taken with the HOPE that the same or similar mistake does not occur again in the future.

The corrective action software and database industry is HUGE. Such software companies often have the largest booths at the Trade Shows, and the best-looking booth attendants. They often sponsor social hours and meals. I even remember a conference where one of these companies treated attendees to cocktails on a yacht!

These software systems come in Shiny Boxes- with LOTS of apparent “fix everything” features.

And they do have their place.

Unfortunately, some of the ‘bells’ and ‘whistles’ associated with their “answers to everything” are being very slickly marketed as ‘solutions’ to human error (and all the ugly things it causes).

And decision-makers continue to get hooked.

I commissioned a study awhile back to survey the landscape of options in this “corrective action” software and database arena. I was amazed at what we discovered.

What truly astounded me was the sheer number of developers who’ve jumped on the ‘bandwagon’ of offering supposed software solutions to organizational performance issues. There were HUNDREDS of options, ranging from FREE to VERY expensive.

Of course I already knew the bigger names- those companies you see at the conferences and trade shows, as well as those I’m familiar with from my nuclear days, and through working with our larger clients- those whose setup and installation fees can run into the millions- just to get started.

The thing is- to date I have yet to come across a Safety, Human Performance, or Performance Improvement Professional who has virtually ANYTHING positive to say about whatever system their organization decision-makers bought into.

Typically, when business decisions are made, a primary consideration is Return on Investment, or “ROI”, right?

I’d be willing to bet most organizations never ran, and have never run, such calculations when it comes to these databases. And these are often the same decision makers and number-crunchers who are extremely reluctant to invest in efforts to PREVENT errors and events from happening in the first place!

By the way, I’ve talked about this before…but if you’d like to see how much human error is currently costing your organization, as well as project your ROI of being proactive (rather than reactive), we’ve built an online APP you can use anytime, free of charge. The link to the APP is in the Resources listing for this Podcast Episode at REPSradio.com. That’s REPSradio.com.

In our study of the “corrective action” software industry, in spite of the sheer number of options available, we found NOTHING that offered the scalability, flexibility, and low cost we were looking for.

My original thought was to design and develop one ourselves; however, once we discovered how overwhelming the landscape was, we put the project on hold.

We did find a couple of systems that appeared to potentially offer the kind of Blue Ocean-low-cost-true-value-add solution…with some modification…that I would recommend to our Clients. We will likely be looking to partner with one of these.

In the meantime, we have our hands full helping people NOT make consequential mistakes in the first place.

If you happen to know of, or be part of, the development of such a system or piece of software, give me a call (1-702-331-8391). The world of Human Performance and Performance Improvement desperately needs such a solution- a solution that looks FORWARD, rather than simply providing a collection of, “these are the bad things that happened, and here’ s what we did in hopes that that they don’t happen again.”

Beyond the ‘old-school’ human performance trainers and practitioners, and the software salespeople, another primary reason organizations remain glued to their rearview mirrors is a mindset. It’s what I call “ANALOCULITIS.”

Analoculitis is an inordinate focus upon the collection of data, and the mining and analysis of that data in the vain hope that it will reveal some magical “fix” to performance issues, all while ignoring ongoing and present actions and behaviors.

Here’s an extreme example of the consequences of analoculitis….

The third leading cause of death in the United States today is- MEDICAL ERROR.

The LEADING cause of ACCIDENTAL death, the medical industry itself estimates that preventable medical errors are killing more than 400,000 people per year. This is the equivalent of two to three 747 Jumbo Jets crashing EVERY DAY!

Yet we don’t hear about it. In each of our worlds, unless the victim is a friend or loved we don’t see it, we don’t read about it- the onslaught goes unnoticed and unannounced.

This is a travesty!

This is not meant to be an indictment of the medical industry- though perhaps it should be.

An inordinate amount of focus and energy continues to be placed upon systems and structures while neglecting the core of medical institution performance- the behaviors of doctors, nurses, and administrators.

A couple of years ago, I had an open door (or so I thought) to be part of what could have become a seminal turning point for the medical industry- a shift in focus to generate immediate, substantial, and sustainable reductions in the incidence of medial error.

It would have represented a departure from endless Six Sigma studies and assessments, moving to a focus on mindset, behaviors, and simple point-of-action tools, which when properly used, virtually eliminate the potential for error to occur.

Just as we were to get started, the whole thing was shut down. The only thing wanted by the medical decision-makers was…more study and assessment.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a bunch of hard-working dedicated folks within the medical system in the US. There are even some bright spots of success in specific areas, such as in the prevention of infections.

Third leading cause of death though? Come on!

And the industry as a whole continues to make very little progress. This is Analoculitis at its utmost.

Think it MIGHT be time for a different approach?

It’s time for the insanity to end.

Focusing upon Human Performance- the CORE of next-generation Performance Improvement, is ENTIRELY different.

Back in my nuclear power days, the focus was almost primarily on corrective action.

If you’ve read my book, 6-Hour Safety Culture, I include the story where I was told “You’re not like most folks in this industry. You’re different!” I cited this as the single greatest compliment I received during my 20-year nuclear career.

This was told to me while I was being offered a nice promotion- toward the end of the ‘experiment’ I orchestrated- where we achieved an 87.5% reduction in the human error rate, while beating schedules, and setting records in production and cost reduction.

We did this, not by amping up our corrective action efforts, but by being PROACTIVE and focusing upon mindset and Behaviors rather than looking in the rearview mirror.

Before I wrap this up, I want to turn you on to a couple of resources you ought to be aware of (if you’re not already)

First, since this Episode is about Results

Should you find yourself needing to decipher actions and timelines following an unfortunate error or event, Sidney Dekker’s book, Field Guide to Understanding Human Error is the best there is relative to understanding and learning from the ‘human’ elements of an unfortunate occurrence.

Second, to become much more PROACTIVE, especially when it comes to Safety, my friend Todd Conklin’s book, Pre-Accident Investigations offers tremendous perspective. He provides a simple tactical approach, for preventing your most-likely accident or injury from occurring. His recommended approach is something you can do NOW, with very little commitment of resources.

Each of these books should be studied, digested, and on the shelf for reference, of every Performance Improvement Professional.

***

This Episode has been made possible by the Practicing Perfection Institute, creators an implementers of Practicing Perfection®- the simple systematic approach to Next-Generation Performance Improvement.

If you are truly interested in synergistic and sustainable Performance Improvement, whether your primary focus be Reliability, Efficiency, Productivity, or Safety, check out what PPI has to offer at ppiweb.com. That’s ppiweb.com.

***

I needed to talk about the tendency to focus on Results in this Episode because so many continue to be captured, plateaued, stifled, and even paralyzed in their Performance Improvement efforts.

Look, you simply cannot be effective in future performance improvement by basing your decisions on things that have already happened.

As Albert Einstein famously enlightened us- “The problems of today cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Think DIFFERENT.

Do DIFFERENT.

In the next Episode we’re going to focus on the third element of the Human Performance equation- BEHAVIORS. It’s gonna be FUN!

Until then, thanks for being a champion of next-level thinking…and doing!

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