Transitioning From a Reductionistic to a Systemic Approach
Transitioning from a reductionist approach like behavior-based safety (BBS) to a more holistic/systemic approach like resilience engineering faces many difficulties. Just for fun, I compared it to Herbert Spencer's classic (1873) difficulties to the - then new - study of sociology. Here are the challenges in a transition from a reductionist to a systemic approach:
- Evidence collection hurdles due to subjective incident reporting, witness reliability, and selective incident attention.
- Safety's complexity demands meticulous observation for insights, emphasizing process improvement and capacity building.
- Subjective interpretations in incident analysis lead to biased "cause" identification.
- Interpreting safety-related behavior involves inherent biases, impacting analysis of “unsafe acts”.
Emotional and Intellectual Biases
- Emotional biases shape safety judgments, leading to misplaced blame.
- Intellectual biases hinder embracing new safety methodologies like resilience engineering.
Resistance to Change
- Prevailing safety mindsets resist embracing new approaches challenging established practices.
- Strong beliefs in one approach hinder acceptance of different methodologies.
- Despite safety forums, new approaches' influence remains restricted due to ingrained beliefs.
- Resistance affects understanding safety in complex systems.
Necessity for Compromise
- Transition requires adjusting beliefs while maintaining safety management continuity.
- Balancing old principles with newer concepts is crucial for gradual improvement.
Conflicts in Thought and Action
- Contradictions exist between individual-focused safety (BBS) and system robustness (resilience engineering).
- Transitional stages involve conflicts in safety policies until new practices establish.
Imperfections in Transition
- Adopting resilience engineering might initially lead to safety structure imperfections.
- Transitional safety measures might fulfill current needs imperfectly.
Balance in Progress
- Safety science progresses towards resilience while preserving established practices, nurturing evolving organizational cultures.
Below is a table I made reading Spencer's 'The Study of Sociology' from 1873 (https://lnkd.in/ecs6-vsS).