Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Even Macy’s Does It

We have long been proponents of looking for innovative ways to improve safety management training for nuclear professionals.  We’ve taken the burden to develop a prototype management simulator, NuclearSafetySim, and made it available to our readers to experience for themselves (see our July 30, 2013 post).  In the past we have also noted other industries and organizations that have embraced simulation as an effective management training tool.

An August article in the Wall Street Journal* cites several examples of new approaches to manager training.  Most notable in our view is Macy’s use of simulations to have managers gain decision making experience.  As the article states:

“The simulation programs aim to teach managers how their daily decisions can affect the business as a whole.”

We won’t revisit all the arguments that we’ve made for taking a systems view of safety management, focusing on decisions as the essence of safety culture and using simulation to allow personnel to actualize safety values and priorities.  All of these could only enrich, challenge and stimulate training activities. 

A Clockwork Magenta

On the other hand what is the value of training approaches that reiterate INPO slide shows, regulatory policy statements and good practices in seemingly endless iterations?  Brings to mind the character Alex, the incorrigible sociopath in A Clockwork Orange with an unusual passion for classical music.**  He is the subject of “reclamation treatment”, head clamped in a brace and eyes pinned wide open, forced to watch repetitive screenings of anti-social behavior to the music of Beethoven’s Fifth.  We are led to believe this results in a “cure” but does it and at what cost?

Nuclear managers may not be treated exactly like Alex but there are some similarities.  After plant problems occur and are diagnosed, managers are also declared “cured” after each forced feeding of traits, values, and the need for increased procedure adherence and oversight.  Results still not satisfactory?  Repeat.

*  R. Feintzeig, "Building Middle-Manager Morale," Wall Street Journal (Aug. 7, 2013).  Retrieved Sept. 24, 2013.

**  M. Amis, "The Shock of the New:‘A Clockwork Orange’ at 50,"  New York Times Sunday Book Review (Aug. 31, 2013).  Retrieved Sept. 24, 2013.

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