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.
From the county that brought you McDonald's hamburgers and the Hell's Angels.
The San Bernardino Group coalesced from an informal group of health care and public safety professionals who began working together in 1989. We believed organizations must support the individual who faces the uncertain environment as this is where the unexpected is routine. Our goal was to improve our own performance by sharing with each other our painful and intimate lessons learned.
In 1995 we began working with Karlene Roberts, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, who introduced us to the principles of the High Reliability Organization (HRO). The following year, through Dr. Roberts, we developed a friendship with Karl Weick, PhD, University of Michigan, and Thomas A. Mercer, RAdm, USN (retired). Dr. Roberts taught us how the structure of an organization can encourage High Reliability. Dr. Weick and his associate Kathleen Sutcliffe, PhD, presented five principles that explain how we work together and how we interact with the environment to achieve High Reliability. RAdm Mercer reinforced our belief that it is our attitude when approaching a threat, uncertainty, the unexpected, or complexity that keeps us engaged until we reach resolution, thus maintaining High Reliability. Their advice and support not only explained what we did, they enabled us to explain our approach to others and enhance our routine and emergency operations.
From a 1996 HRO conference at UC Berkeley we connected with others in the field besides Karl Weick (research) and RAdm. Mercer. We also began working with Bob Bea (academic, marine architecture and civil engineering), Tony Ciavarelli (Naval Aviation safety), Kathleen Sutcliffe (academic, health care), Chris Hart (commercial aviation), Earl Carnes (nuclear energy), Naj Meshkati (aviation safety, engineering), and David Christenson (wild land firefighting). Supported by the larger HRO community we held our first HRO conference at Crafton Hills College, Yucaipa, CA, in 2003. We gained international recognition 2004 when Bert Slagmolen, Apollo XII Consulting, introduced our group to Dutch railway authorities who were implementing HRO as High Performance Organizing (HPO). HPO is an approach developed by Dr. Slagmolen to translate the principles of HRO to organizations where failure is a business failure and not death or destruction.
The San Bernardino Group began bimonthly HRO discussions in 2005 to clarify useful concepts, examine nuances of High Reliability, and share experiences with implementation and application. This group continues and has grown to over 60 members from five countries. We now conduct regular international conferences to make HRO operational and have developed this website.
"Other people's stories are what make us strong."
- Tony Hare, PhD
The San Bernardino Group (current positions)