When conducting a Human Reliability Assessment (HRA) we use the terminology: errors of commission or errors of omission. It behoves every professional to question why we focus upon one metric in preference to all others, in an objective and constructive manner in order to discern whether we are exposing our organization to errors of professional omission or commission. Obviously the other conclusion is that we are doing the right thing and this is also an empowering piece of knowledge.
When an organization uses one reliability metric predominately, there is a propensity to subsequently force organizational behavior in a certain direction, which in turn becomes the social norm. If we fail to question the underlying rationale that motivates our organization to rely on certain metrics in favor of all others, then we also fail to fully comprehend our organization’s collective mindset. Such comprehension is crucial not only as the foundation to any potential change management initiative but also to break into management’s decision making cycle which drives every tier of an organization. Getting inside our executives decision making cycle is the first step in value adding at the core business level, rather than being relegated as a second tier employee that provides little more than a process compliance function. Reliability engineering is often viewed as an “add-on” mandated process by many middle to executive management staff and I proffer that it is not their shortcomings that lead to such a mindset….. it is ours. The reliability professional has the task of not only providing highly skilled analysis but also to educate our organization on how we can do business more efficiently, carry less risk forward and use existing resources more effectively by simply understanding how to integrate our skills into core business processes rather than as an “add-on”.
So, how is any of this related to something as seemingly innocuous as MTBF?
Well, if we have to ask ourselves that question then quite simply, we are not there yet. We are not at the level of professional and organizational understanding that allows us to instantly realize a potential disconnect between what we can truly offer and what we are currently doing. I concede, MTBF may be the right metric however, unless you “know” why it is the right metric then it should be questioned.
The real concern is not necessarily whether MTBF is being used but rather how its use is shaping organizational behavior that in turn potentially manifests into redundant activity, wasted resources, extended schedules, increased risk taking and more importantly…. our own inability to truly step into our management’s decision making cycle and ply our craft in a meaningful, effectual and professional manner.
So, are you exposing your organization to professional errors of commission or omission by not questioning the metrics being used? How is this then shaping your organizational behavior and more importantly…. what can “we” do to treat ill-informed behavior?