The Five Basic Principles of HOP (Human and Organizational Performance)

November 2, 2020

Human and Organizational Performance systems, better known as HOP, have garnered much recent discussion and interest by many organizations, who see it as a better approach to improving safety performance. The premise of HOP is the idea that human error is inevitable so perhaps through better process systems management and analysis, organizations might lessen the effect of human error through the promotion of defenses that reduce risk.

It is with this thinking that organizations can build management system robustness by understanding how workers perform their daily work tasks and then understanding what the gaps or errors are within the management system and close the gaps through what is commonly referred to as defenses.

Conversation is imperative for HOP and most critical to success. Active listening and learning (worker-to-worker and worker-to-management) is necessary to understand where failure and loss is possible. It requires looking back at past events where loss was experienced, reviewing the present where errors are armed and ready to strike, and it’s an eye into the future to identify certain job tasks that promote the chance of loss.

HOP is about experience and communication and seeks to understand the information gathered and insights shared by those closest to the work, the workers on the front line who recognize error-likely situations because they have experienced them. Most important is the understanding that HOP is not a program, it’s an improvement process that gets better over time as trust grows in the organization

1. People are fallible and even the best of us make mistakes. You and I are human and in every task we undertake, mistakes can happen. That’s natural and should come as no surprise.

2. Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable. We all have come across situations that, if left unattended, will ultimately cause an error to materialize into an event (an accident).

Unsalted ice on a stairway comes to mind.

3. Individual behavior is influenced by organizational processes and values. Look at your own organization. What does it value? The answer to that question is found by looking at what the organization rewards. That affects our behavior.

4. People achieve high levels of performance based largely on feedback received from leaders, peers, and subordinates.

5. Events (accidents or near-accidents) can be avoided by understanding the reasons mistakes occur and applying the lessons learned from past events. This principle is self-evident. From the employees' point of view, is the organization focused on learning and applying lessons learned, or is it focused on punishing error?

Considering these principles, changing our response when loss occurs from a culture of blame to a culture of understanding is warranted. Deviation in the work system is going to occur and at times, we are going to get something other than what we would expect.

Employing HOP increases management and worker participation, helping organizations learn from experiences.

By increasing knowledge of the risks that reside within the work system, the door opens for more effective levels of control. A combined and integrated approach supports the idea of a progressive partnership of management and employees working together to own safety and health in a way that reduces the potential of loss.

Excerpts from an Article Authored by Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health at Intelex Technologies.