Friday, July 27, 2012

Modeling Safety Culture (Part 4): Simulation Results 2

As we introduced in our prior post on this subject (Results 1), we are presenting some safety culture simulation results based on a highly simplified model.  In that post we illustrated how management might react to business pressure caused by a reduction in authorized budget dollars.  The actions of management result in shifting of resources from safety to business and lead to changes in the state of safety culture.

In this post we continue with the same model and some other interesting scenarios.  In each of the following charts three outputs are plotted: safety culture in red, management action level in blue and business pressure in dark green.  The situation is an organization with a somewhat lower initial safety culture and confronted with a somewhat smaller budget reduction than the example in Results 1. 

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows an overly reactive management. The blue line shows management’s actions in response to the changes in business pressure (green) associated with the budget change.  Note that management’s actions are reactive, shifting priorities immediately and directly in response. The behavior leads to a cyclic outcome where management actions temporarily alleviate business pressure, but when actions are relaxed, pressure rises again, followed by another cycle of management response.  This could be a situation where management is not addressing the source of the problem, shifting priorities back and forth between business and safety.  Also of interest is that the magnitude of the cycle is actually increasing with time indicating that the system is essentially unstable and unsustainable.  Safety culture (red) declines throughout the time frame.

Figure 2
Figure 2 shows the identical conditions but where management implements a more restrained approach, delaying its response to changes in business.  The overall system response is still cyclic, but now the magnitude of the cycles is decreasing and converging on a stable outcome.

Figure 3
Figure 3 is for the same conditions, but the management response is restrained further.  Management takes more time to assess the situation and respond to business pressure conditions.  This approach starts to filter out the cyclic type of response seen in the first two examples and will eventually result in a lower business gap.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from these three simulations is that the total changes in safety culture are not significantly different.  A certain price is being paid for shifting priorities away from safety, however the ability to reduce and maintain lower business pressure is much better with the last management strategy.

Figure 4
The last example in this set is shown in Figure 4.  This is a situation where business pressure is gradually ramped up due to a series of small step reductions in budget levels.  Within the simulation we have also set a limit on extent of management actions.  Initially management takes no action to shift priorities - business pressure is within a value that safety culture can resist.  Consequently safety culture remains stable.  After the third “bump” in business pressure, the threshold resistance of safety culture is broken and management starts to modestly shift priorities.  Even though business pressure continues to ramp up, management response is capped and does not “chase” closing the business gap.  As a result safety culture suffers only a modest reduction before stabilizing.  This scenario may be more typical of an organization with a fairly strong safety culture - under sufficient pressure it will make modest tradeoffs in priorities but will resist a significant compromise in safety.

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