Saturday, September 12, 2009

A LearnSafe Afterthought

The line of thinking in the Wahlström and Rollenhagen paper and the LearnSafe project appears to provide a strong nudge away from thinking of safety culture in terms of a set of beliefs and values.  Or of thinking of safety culture as something apart from the how the multiple, complex decision processes within an organization are occurring.

One could also ask, as did Wahlström and Rollenhagen, if the present interpretations of safety culture are rich enough to serve the need for a requisite variety; i.e. does the concept have the same order of complexity as the plant organization that it is supposed to control? [p.8]

One tool for representing the many factors at work in a given environment is an influence diagram.  As Wahlström and Rollenhagen note, “Influence diagrams are often used as the next step in a model building exercise to track dependencies between issues. It is relatively easy for people to identify up-stream causes and down-stream consequences of some specific issue. It is far more difficult to merge these influences to a comprehensive model of some interesting phenomenon, because there are usually very many influences to be traced. Sometimes the influences form loops, which in practice may render the influence diagram more difficult to use for making predictions of how some issue may influence another. When the influences are linear, models are relatively easy to build and validate, but many systems include influences with threshold and saturation effects.” [p. 4, emphasis added]  Multiple variables, loops, and threshold and saturation effects are all important constructs in the system dynamics world view.

Link to paper.

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