Jake Mazulewicz’s picture

By: Jake Mazulewicz

Wildland firefighters. Air traffic controllers. Flight deck crews of aircraft carriers. Operators of nuclear power plants and the national bulk electric grid. These are among the safest and most reliable work teams in the world. And they don’t try to eliminate all errors and surprises.

Decades of experience have shown that the crusade to eliminate every error is both impractical and unwise. So, what do high-reliability work teams do instead? They operate so that errors and surprises don’t disable them. Instead of being brittle or fragile, these teams seek to build resilience.

During the past 30 years, researchers have discovered a few unusual traits that high-reliability organizations (HROs) share. For example, HROs tend to trust the workers with the most expertise, not the most status. HROs also tend to respect the complex, often sticky “ground truth” of how work actually gets done, instead of trying to oversimplify and “proceduralize” everything. And of course, HROs seek to build resilience.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Many leaders, driven by memories of pre-pandemic times, believe that forcing employees to return to the office will naturally lead to mentoring and development. For example, consider what Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said in spring 2023 on the On With Kara Swisher podcast after the company demanded that sales and marketing staff come to the office four days a week: “For our new employees who are coming in, we know empirically that they do better if they’re in the office, meeting people, being onboarded, being trained. If they are at home and not going through that process, we don’t think they’re as successful.”

We’re seeing many tech, finance, and other leaders make similar claims and adopt similar policies. However, senior staff have found that they can be highly productive outside the office, and many of them now resist the idea of returning.

Tina Behers’s picture

By: Tina Behers

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s how quickly—and drastically—things can change in business. Indeed, organizations have been in an almost constant state of change through the ebbs and flows of the pandemic and its new work models, the fluctuating economy, and labor challenges pushing them to become more nimble.

Today, a company’s ability to execute and adapt to the landscape around it is arguably its core competitive advantage. In fact, research by global law firm Howard Kennedy found that 82 percent of businesses now consider agility important to their future, up from 66 percent before the pandemic. That’s also why we’re seeing more businesses recognize the need to be more responsive and agile.

Nellie Wartoft’s picture

By: Nellie Wartoft

Diverse teams are an essential asset to any business. According to a Forbes article, “Companies with a diverse workforce are 35 percent more likely to experience greater financial returns than their non-diverse counterparts.” This is because heterogeneous teams can provide greater insight into a wider variety of potential audiences. Harvard Business Review reports that diverse businesses are 45 percent more likely to gain market share and 70 percent more likely to seize an entirely new market.

Yet, supervisors of all kinds know how difficult it can be to manage a heterogeneous team. People can give offense to others without even intending to, and miscommunications can lead to hard feelings that, if left unaddressed, can leave you with a divided workforce.

Below, I’ll explain how to keep cultural differences in mind while managing diverse teams to create and nurture a healthy work environment.

Sharon McDougall’s picture

By: Sharon McDougall

Although the coronavirus pandemic changed the working lives of employees around the world, closing workplaces and transforming dining tables into professional workstations, it also gave employees a chance to time out and recharge from the hustle and bustle associated with office working.

The pandemic provided an opportune moment for those looking to start their own business, pursue a hobby on a professional level, or try their hand at something new, which came to be known as the Great Resignation. But while the pandemic acted as a catalyst of change for millions of workers, it also fed directly into the global skills shortage.

How are employers filling the skills gap?

Employers are taking a varied approach to filling the skills gap, which entails maximizing the skill set of existing staff, improving job desirability, and widening talent acquisition strategies.

Multiple Authors
By: Ken Chapman, Tony Orlowski

‘Turning to the men around him, Dodge shouted, ‘Up this way!’ but the men ignored him. Dodge later stated that someone responded, ‘To hell with that, I’m getting out of here.’ The team raced past Dodge up the slope toward the ridge. Four men reached the crest, but only two, Bob Sallee and Walter Rumsey, managed to escape through a crevice in the rock. Dodge survived by lying in the center of his escape fire. The rest of the team perished in the blaze.”

This passage, taken from Chapter 6 of our leadership book, Safety Beyond the Numbers (SafePath Publishing 2022), describes a real-life disaster in which more than a dozen forest service firefighters (smokejumpers) lost their lives. The tragedy is a stark reminder that it’s impossible for any leader or organization, no matter how competent and well-meaning, to be responsible for keeping their people safe. Far from being admirable or heroic, such a belief is in fact the opposite—misleading and patronizing. And sometimes it’s fatal.

Let’s take a closer look at this often-misunderstood but critical aspect of safety.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

Ever since 1935 people have been trying to fine-tune Walter Shewhart’s simple but sophisticated process behavior chart. One of these embellishments is the use of two-sigma “warning” limits. This column will consider the theoretical and practical consequences of using two-sigma warning limits.

British statistician Egon Sharpe Pearson wanted to use warning limits set at plus or minus 1.96 sigma on either side of the central line. Others simply round the 1.96 off to 2.00. Either way, these warning limits are analogous to the 95-percent confidence intervals encountered in introductory courses in statistics. However, the use of such warning limits fails to consider the difference between the objective of a confidence interval and the purpose of using a process behavior chart.

A confidence interval is a one-time analysis that seeks to describe the properties of a specific lot or batch. It’s all about how many or how much is present. A confidence interval describes the uncertainty in an estimate of some static quantity.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Angry and dismayed Amazon employees are pushing back against the recently announced return to office policy by the Amazon leadership. Amazon’s policy joins other high-profile companies such as Disney, Starbucks, Tesla, Google, and others that are forcing employees back to the office.

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

I wrote previously1 that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics are often dysfunctional because they prioritize the wrong things and thus deliver the wrong results.

The recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) despite SVB Financial Group’s “medium” (at the time) ESG risk rating from Sustainalytics2 and its extensive proclamations of ESG goals and achievements3 reinforces this conclusion. SVB’s ESG goals, in fact, achieved final scores of zero across the board because one has to be in business to meet goals. This reinforces the conclusion that if we take care of quality basics, and business basics such as minding the store, ESG will take care of itself. If we put ESG first, or even give it a place at the table, we might not have a store to mind.

Bob Ferrone’s picture

By: Bob Ferrone

Quality and sustainability are two critical aspects of modern business operations that are closely intertwined. While quality refers to the level of excellence or standard achieved in a product or service, sustainability relates to the ability to maintain or improve that quality over time while minimizing negative impacts on the environment, society, and the economy.

These two concepts are not mutually exclusive and can, in fact, complement each other when integrated into an organization’s operations. Bringing quality and sustainability together in an organization can create synergies that drive innovation, reduce costs, and enhance reputation, among other benefits.

One of the most significant advantages of integrating quality and sustainability is the ability to identify and address environmental and social risks early in the product design process. By leveraging quality management systems, such as ISO 9001, organizations can establish procedures for identifying, assessing, and managing risks that could affect the quality of their products or services.

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