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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.

Current Thought Articles


 

Title: Deference to Expertise, Part II

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10/19/2013 4:41 PM

Minutes from a meeting to discuss Weick and Sutcliffe’s Five Principles of HRO

We have two kinds of ego, positive and negative ego-centrism. The negative egocentrism is "I am not smart" or "I am not correct" and it takes time to train this out of people. We need to add positive egocentrism's such as introspection, courage, and transcendence (things part of ourselves that help each other). This helps people feel empowered to say "this is what I think." We need to listen to them with fresh voice because they are seeing things we have not seen before. One educator does not allow people to introduce themselves as "just a student." He does not allow the additive "just."

How does deference to expertise show up in education, in the classroom? Lots of criticism by outside experts, marginalizes those inside the process, teachers know how to teach, but how to defer to them? How do we showcase the skill sets a to improve development influence of the experts that already exist in the organization?

One school bus driver has a route where the kids hide rather than get on bus. His route is for the kids who are about to be dropped from the school system for behavior problems. No one wants to be seen getting on his bus. He does not have a problem with student’s behavior. The district rule is to call dispatch if they stop more than three minutes and call the police if they stop more than five minutes. He starts for one minute then moves the bus forward and stuff for one minute. This means he does not have to report in. But the kids know they will be late getting home or reporting to work. They learn to control each other in a positive way. 

If you empower the little guy you may be surprised at what they bring. When someone with no power can give their opinion you learn more and that benefits the whole program.

Sometimes deferring to expertise works against you as you do not recognize your own expertise. Also, others don't develop it expertise. Too much deference can result in people learning not to take initiative. There is a dark and a bright side to expertise when you differ too much

It is a necessary balance, depending upon the amount of time you have, to draw out from people their own expertise but in the end you must put their words into proper terms and make a decision. Then interpret for all in the broader context

With deference to expertise you are not making a decision solely on the basis of your power and authority. You defer to a person on ground with knowledge and skill appropriate for the circumstances. But what happens when life or death situations occur? The authority gradient is so great the person with expertise may not be forthcoming.

One physician referred a child to the hospital with a distended abdomen. The receiving physician stated the x-rays showed nothing. After the child died the referring physician investigator further and found that no new x-rays were obtained. The physician group justified their actions by stating that nobody would have admitted a child anyway.

Transparency in making decisions helps everyone, those involved and novices, learn from the decision processes used.

The leader can make decisions and build barriers that people cannot speak through. In an educational system, one person had to have preapproval from the superintendent an area that the person was an expert in. This is because there is a rule. When a person makes their first decision you can go wrong and that will kill the future initiatives. There must be willingness in the leader to give up control and defer to expertise. You must do this to defer to expertise. After you have deferred expertise, made a decision, and have given responsibility to the junior officer been the leader still maintains accountability and should not shoot the messenger if it does not work out. Should there be a process up front of who we identify as an expert? It is also their perspective you want, not the knowledge alone.

In the world of tree planting (Silvaculture) there is also a dark side of deference to expertise. There is strong sentiment to earn your stripes before you speak about your experience. The veteran tree planters did not have reliable roadmaps for building their expertise, there were no books and they built their knowledge on experience.  They continue to say you don't know about the culture. This is dangerous because it absolves people of their responsibility to build expertise (feel like they can just wait around for it to emerge like the old-timers did) and contribute to overall knowledge 


 

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