Submit your question using the form below. Once reviewed, your question may be listed on our page to help other visitors learn about us.


14 + 13 =

Should I go to the 3-day Practitioner course or the 2-day Advanced?

We have had several people ask us which course they should be attending. With the help of our friends, Cindy Wagner and Todd Conklin, we have posted a video to help explain what each course would cover. You can also read more information about each course under the event descriptions. We hope to see you in our next courses!

What’s in a name?

Recently we had a question sent to us and I replied with a short answer, but wanted to expound on this a bit:

We are finding that employees may have a negative feeling toward HPI simply based on its name. They sometimes feel that it implies they are what needs to be improved. Have you heard this from others? As we work on implementation we are considering a rebrand but are struggling with what to call it. Do you have examples you could share on what others companies have done in this regard?

A lot of companies are calling it HOP (Human & Organizational Performance).  Others are calling it simply Organizational Improvement. You will also find other terms such as Safety II, Safety Differently, or The New View of Safety.

My personal feeling is there is so much reference material using Human Performance terms, I would rather explain to my employees once why Human Performance isn’t a “fix the worker” approach, rather than have to explain each and every time why we changed the name.

Even with HOP and Organizational Improvement–what is the Organization? When you break it down the organization is all of us. Humans. Humans that are each having an influence on the organization no matter what position we hold.  Which is why I choose to put the effort in explaining that concept to my employees.

There is a lot of scientific research done on the effect of using certain words. Businesses pay money to consultants just to find the right name or phrase to market a product or idea. So, I understand the desire to find the right name. My only request is that if you do use the name Human Performance make sure you are following the 5 principles of Human Performance Improvement. Otherwise, it stops being HPI.


What is my implementation plan missing?

4 Implementation Steps You Don’t Want to Overlook

During our 3-day certificate class we spend time talking about implementing the Human Performance Improvement (HPI) philosophy into an organization.  There are 8 Stages that we recommend as a guide in this process, since trying to implement change without a structured approach will increase the chance for error and failure.

Even with this 8 stage process, I have noticed 4 related steps that are sometimes overlooked or not used correctly. They may seem simple and obvious, but many have failed to notice these steps in their effort to cause change.

First of all, HPI is not a new “program of the month”.  It is very important to be clear that this is a system perspective.  Understanding the HPI philosophy and tools can be brought back to whatever production or safety program you already have in place.  So, how are you going to educate the organization on this new philosophy and perspective? You are teaching new values, beliefs, behaviors, and ways of communicating.  Who needs what training? How do you expect individuals at all levels to understand your purpose if they can’t understand what you are talking about? It is vital that this starts at the top with senior management.  If you want your organization to be successful in creating this type of change, then you need at least one person at the top giving full support to this—that means they need to be educated about what HPI encompasses!  
Once the managers, supervisors, workers, etc understand HPI don’t forget to have scheduled reminders and training.  It could be as simple as a monthly message or tip. With management changing at times you may also need to consider a “HPI booster” to make sure everyone is on the same page.


HPI Tool Usage
Simple, right?  Just use the HPI tools!  Well, which ones? Do workers “in the field” need the same tools as workers “in the office”?  Are there some HPI tools that your workers need to be using that they are not aware of? In the DOE HPI Handbook 2 there is a handy table that helps guide the user in knowing which tools need to be used.  So, whether it is job-site review, place-keeping, flagging, or peer review to name just a few, make sure that your are using the correct
HPI tools.


Tool Integration
Of all the steps, Tool Integration is by far the most overlooked step.  Tool integration requires a thoughtful approach on where to record the use of the tool.   Whether in a procedure, tool to work matrix, or many other avenues. Bottom line is–have you institutionalized the use of the tools such that the use of the tool can be evaluated and judged on its effectiveness?

Just Culture
“A just environment is all about getting the balance right between how willful violations and unintentional error are addressed in the organization.  All too often organizations do not make clear the distinctions between errors and violations. A just organization clears the smoke in the air between erring and violating”
If you want your organization to use the HPI tools and recognize error likely situations, then you need the workplace culture to support that.  Workers will not report anything that they fear will come back to bite them. You cannot punish errors out of the system! A just culture can differentiate between willful violations and unintentional errors through the use of the substitution test and culpability tree.  If you really want your organization to grow and become resilient then you need to provide the work environment where your greatest asset (workers) are able to contribute to strengthening the organization.

As I stated before, simple–right?  But, if you are having trouble implementing HPI within your organization may I suggest you look at these 4 steps and assess if there are any areas that could be improved upon.  These basic tenets are building blocks in a successful implementation plan.
Let us know of your struggles and successes!  We love sharing stories of success and learning together how to overcome difficulties. 


Is HPI just a safety initiative?


Is HPI just a safety initiative?  Can you give me an example of it being used in a different industry?

Back in December of last year there was an episode of the Ted Radio Hour on NPR that talked about Transparency.  In that episode they interviewed Leilani Schweitzer about her experiences working for Stanford University Hospital.  This is a great 13 minute clip to listen to:


“It would have been easy for the university hospital administrators to blame the nurse, fire her and assume the problem had been solved because the bad apple was gone. It would have been typical deny-and-defend behavior for them to ignore my questions, to go silent and hope I couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to file a lawsuit. It would have been a safe bet. But they didn’t do that. They didn’t prey on my vulnerability. Instead, they investigated. They explained, took responsibility and apologized. It made all of the difference. After the university hospital investigated Gabriel’s death and the weakness in the monitors was discovered, all other hospitals using the same equipment were alerted to the vulnerability. “

Many times we are asked if Human Performance Improvement (HPI) is just a safety initiative. This is more than just safety.  It can be applied to all departments in all industries. We have not trained staff at the Stanford University Hospital, but just listening to Leilani’s story you can get a glimpse of what can be accomplished when organizations change their perspectives on how they should approach situations where an error has occurred.

How many of you have experienced a situation like this with a loved one in the hospital?  What do you think about Leilani’s job?  We are interested in your thoughts and reactions to this.


Who should be in the HPI training?

We have an interesting question in a video format this time.  See below for a question that someone had asked Shane about having the wrong audience during HPI training.  Underneath the question is another video showing Shane’s answer.

Behavioral Based Safety (BBS) vs Human Performance Improvement (HPI)


What is the difference between Behavior Based Safety (BBS) and Human Performance Improvement (HPI)?

Lately there has been some discussion on what the relationship is between Behavior Based Safety (BBS) and Human Performance Improvement (HPI).  Last year and this year a Plenary session at the ASSP (American Society of Safety Professionals) debated this topic. I have not seen this year’s discussion as of yet, but here is my experience on the subject:

I have taught courses on both BBS and HPI at the University of Idaho.  Within the HPI materials is a graph that shows 30% of the influence on error rates (5 per hour on average) come from the competencies (or lack thereof) that the Individual Worker brings to the job (education, experience, actively caring, etc.)

The graph goes on to explain that 70% of the influence on error rates come from the influence of Organizationally Controlled Processes (such as the procedures, leadership, work environment, tools, etc)

I have always seen BBS and HPI as a great marriage.  While they cross-over in what they promote, BBS has tended to be very good at capturing the 30% (individual contributions) and HPI seems to be very good at capturing the 70% (organizationally controlled processes) that influenced the human error.

I believe to do one without the other may be doing a disservice to the worker in creating a holistic approach to a safer work environment and providing defenses to guard against the consequences of errors.

Can you measure commitment to the HPI philosophy?

HPI is a philosophy, can organizations craft performance expectations for annual appraisals that measure commitment to this philosophy? If so can someone share this information?

The answer is Yes. As mentioned, Human Performance Improvement (HPI) is a philosophy.  So, how do you measure someone’s commitment to a philosophy?  In the DOE (Department of Energy) manual it states that HPI = Behaviors + Results.  It would reason that you should be able to measure behaviors and results.  This has been done already.  Some companies have already integrated safety into their employee’s annual assessments by measuring attendance at safety meetings, presenting on safety topics, identifying hazards in their workplace, etc.

Human Performance Improvement would be similar by rewarding the identification of error precursors, organizational weaknesses, error likely situations, etc.  Providing a presentation on a Human Performance topic for your work group is a great way to get people involved and at the same time educate the rest of the group.  There are also Leading Indicators that an individual could support and be rewarded for.  An example of this would be if your organization is measuring the Self-reported errors vs the Event-reported errors ratio (indicator of a Just Culture). Those reporting errors should be rewarded.  One DOE national laboratory is requiring a working knowledge of HPI (basically becoming an HPI Practitioner) as a prerequisite for applying for certain jobs. There are lots of ways to integrate HPI into annual evaluations in a very positive way.

Human Factors and Human Performance Improvement (HPI)


What is the difference between Human Factors and Human Performance Improvement (HPI)?

There are several places you can look online to define Human Factors.  Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_factors_and_ergonomics) states:

“Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) describes Human Performance Improvement (HPI) as addressing more of the mental part of interacting with a process.  To keep it simple, traditionally Human Factors focused on the ergonomics side of the interaction of humans with processes.  For example: Is the cockpit of an airplane designed such that the pilot can see and reach all of the dials, knobs, handles, gauges, etc., necessary to operator the airplane?  Whereas, HPI started to study the mental interaction with the process.  For example: What factors (latent organizational weaknesses) or conditions (error precursors) exist that are known to exacerbate human fallibility that results in the pilot making errors by operating the process incorrectly (turning the wrong knob or flipping the wrong switch)?

HPI also studies tools and defenses that can be provided to reduce the error, or more importantly reducing the consequences of errors. While Human Factors has always taken this into account to some extent (failure modes and effects analysis), this is the primary focus of HPI when the outcome of an error could result in 1) Injury, 2) Mission Interruption or 3) Damage (i.e. facilities, equipment, environment).

Bottom line is they are complementary to one another.

What is HPI (Human Performance Improvement)?

How do I explain to somebody what HPI is?

What is Human Performance Improvement (HPI)?  This is a great place to start this dialogue.  Depending on where you search for this determines the answer you get.  But even before we can explain what Human Performance is we must start with the definition of the word ‘error’.

In the DOE (Department of Energy) Human Performance Improvement Handbook, Volume 1, Concepts and Principles, it defines an error as: “An action that unintentionally departs from an expected behavior.”

One reference on the internet defines an error as a ‘mistake’.  We’ll talk about mistakes later, but the definition goes on to explain an error is a “state or condition of being wrong in conduct or judgement”.

Wikipedia defines an error as: “A deviation from accuracy or correctness”.

I realized early in my HPI journey that the opposite of human performance is complexity.  The definitions that I shared above, while necessary for the academia world, would not meet my ability to explain an error to my students and meet the HPI mantra of ‘keeping it simple’.   With deep respect to those who have much more education and respect in this field than myself, I offer my own definition with humility, only as a means of simplifying it so I could explain it to others.   This is nothing more than my opinion and should only be quoted or referred to as an opinion.

I believe an error is simply “something you didn’t intend to do”.  It could have a good outcome (serendipity – rare), or little to no consequence (most errors – good news), or a bad outcome (the ones we tend to focus on eliminating).

The first question I ask my students about the definition of error (something you didn’t intend to do), is, “is it difficult to get people to quit doing things they didn’t intend to do?”  The answer of course is ‘Yes’ it is difficult to get people to quit doing things they didn’t intend to do, because they didn’t intend to do it!

Hence the reason for Human Performance Improvement (HPI).  HPI is a philosophy (with a methodology) that provides guidance on how to manage human fallibility where people do things they didn’t intend to do.