Managing the Unexpected

High Reliability develops an organization’s strengths through individual actions.
Shared attitudes fill the gap between organization and the individual to determine High Reliability.

Models of HRO

HRO Model Overview | Perrow/Complex OrganizationsMercer/Naval Aviation | High Reliability OrganizationsRoberts & Libuser/Organizational Psychology | Weick and Sutcliffe/Social Psychology | Slagmolen/Change | van Stralen/Neuropsychology | HRO & Normal Accident Theory

HRO Model Overview

Comparison of Roberts/Weick/van Stralen

As we have described in this section, High Reliability developed to make an organization stronger (Mercer) and for an individual to operate in uncertainty or under threat (van Stralen). People come together to create High Reliability (Weick) in an organization designed for this (Roberts). It is the individual who acts but the organization must allow that action.

Field Model Public Health Operators & Participants Organizational Behavior
Direction of Study From healthy environment toward disaster (anterograde) From disaster/crisis, covert state, prevention From routine operations toward crisis (retrograde)
Time of Analysis/Function (Direction) Proactive Interactive Reactive
Methods Anticipation, prevention Interactive, real-time assessment and management Planning
Resources Prevention Suppression Recovery


Zone of Exclusion

This is the zone of threat to the individual and will activate the person’s threat response. There are no observers here as each person will respond differently and in ways we cannot predict. Plans and principles become self-referential and lose objectivity as it is impossible to describe the environment or actions without “What would I have done?”


Advocate van Stralen Bea Weick Roberts Perrow Mercer
Discipline Neuro-psychology Civil Engineering Social Psychology Organiz-ational Psychology Sociology Naval Aviation, Nuclear Propulsion
Level of Analysis/ Function Individual Environment Social Organization (Structure) Society Operations
Principle Threat, Team, Formation Uncertainty and Threat, Working Environment Cognitive Dissonance with Action Commun-ication Complex Organizations Command Philosophy
Method Reasoning Design and Interaction Interactions between people and environment Organiz-ational Behavior Interactions between people and technology Command and Leadership
Goal or Purpose Responsive-
ness, Protection
Hazard Recognition Collective Mindfulness and Enactment Identify High Reliability Decisions regarding Technology Strength, Agility, Resilience
Result Performance under Uncertainty Interactive, Real-Time Risk Assessment and Management High Reliability Organization High Reliability Organization Normal Accidents High Reliability Operations/ Organizing

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