Normalization of risk (sometimes called normalization of deviance) is a buzz-word for:

“The gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization.”

Normalization of Risk

The source of the buzz-word is the failed Challenger launch back in 1986

The term, normalization of deviance was introduced by Diane Vaughn, a sociologist who investigated the Challenger shuttle disaster.

Her point of view was that the organization developed a habit of accepting known risks that had not created problems before. The O-ring that brought down the shuttle and killed seven astronauts was a known issue. It had been damaged in fourteen of twenty-four prior flights. Since it had never failed, it was considered an acceptable risk by the organizations.

I've had the good fortune to work with hundreds of companies (and visit hundreds more) so I'll share a few habits I've seen that I believe fall into a similar pattern.

  • Driving the forklift 'the wrong way' around the warehouse.
  • Writing logs or scanning ingredients into logging systems after production is underway.
  • Ditto marks or skipped fields on reports.
  • Workers doing sums 'in their heads' for weights and tares.

Here is the challenge.  Once your company starts taking these shortcuts it builds resistance to doing things 'the right way.'  The shortcut is easier, faster and 'nothing went wrong' (until it catastrophically does.)

Take a look at your company, think of the worst possible outcome for the behavior you're seeing.  Whether that is forklifts colliding head-on, a recall of product (or deaths) from undeclared allergens, or losing customers due to cheating them on weights.  If those results are 'ok' with you, carry on.  If those results are 'not ok' (and they probably shouldn't be) then get in there and correct that behavior.


Issue 643 - Blocking and Tackling Revisited

I have decided to get away from all this technology discussion and dust off the archives from 11 years ago in the interest of getting back to basics. My longtime readers remember about blocking and tackling, Vince Lomabardi taught us what that meant. Making more bottom line profit is about the basics.

Read more ...