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CRJ Series 5 - Introducing the WITH model

crj hop hpi teresa swinton Sep 03, 2018

Welcome to the fifth blog in our Human Performance series for Crisis Response Journal and thank you for the feedback to the 4th blog in this series (if you have missed my previous blogs, you can catch up here: https://www.crisis-response.com/comment/blog.php). In this blog I am going to introduce you to the “WITH” Model (sometimes referred to as “TWIN”).

As we know Human Performance is a theory with a tried and tested methodology based on an acceptance that people are fallible and prone to error, and we have already discovered how and why this is the case. You may also recall me saying last time that Human Error is predictable? Yes, we are creatures of habit and over time we start to understand our own ‘error footprint’ i.e. where, what, how and when we ourselves are likely to make errors; for example, when we’re tired, stressed or bored; perhaps dealing with complex data, copying information, etc.. For me personally, I am most error-prone in the evenings after a long day at work and so I know to make sure that anything of importance that I’m doing at home of an evening gets checked by someone else, e.g. my husband, especially when it comes to personal finances!

Over time, we also learn about our propensity for error in the work environment; both as individuals and collectively as a team, Department or Organisation! We can use lagging indicators of events and unwanted outcomes we have already suffered and investigated or reviewed, we can look at audit reports and non-conformances and for those of us who are now starting to introduce safety II thinking we have Appreciative Enquiries, Task Observations and on-the-job Coaching. In the previous blog we also talked about environments where our error propensity is increased significantly depending upon our ‘performance mode’ at any given time. 

So, if we know what tasks and activities increase our propensity for error and we then know what our personal triggers are it stands to reason that, with a little prompt, we should be able to predict the types of error we’ll make and where in the task or activity we’ll make them and then pop some error reduction tools and techniques into the process which will ultimately stop us from falling in to those error traps! One of those ‘little prompts’ is the “WITH” Model.

The WITH model was derived from an in-depth study of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) event database.  These “Error Precursors” are behaviour or performance-shaping factors. The model consists of four ‘groups’ of error precursors, Work Environment, Individual Capabilities, Task Demands and Human Nature. The bolded error precursors are more prevalent and are listed in order of impact.  Other error precursors are not listed in any particular order.

We refer to this as ‘working WITH error pre-cursors’ because of course that is what ‘work as done’ actually looks like! There are a number of ways for you to use the WITH model in your organisation.

After introducing your workers to the concept of Human Error, a good starting point is to familiarise them with the WITH model. We use ‘lanyard cards’ which are worn by front line staff so that they can refer to them during their pre-job brief (we’ll cover this in a future blog) or when the circumstances of the job have changed, e.g. weather conditions, adjacent working parties, out of service equipment, etc.. Many of our clients have taken this on board and provided lanyards and cards but it is not the only way. An example of our card is below.

Knowledge Workers are those individuals who have a ‘remote hand in the task or activity’, for example, procedure writers, planners, designers, engineers, permit issuers, supervisors, managers, etc. Referring back to my previous blog, Knowledge Workers tend to be responsible for ‘Latent Errors’ or ‘latent conditions’, i.e. the traps which lie undetected or dormant in our systems, processes and procedures. 

Knowledge workers use of the WITH model is two-fold. They need to think about the errors that they can make, just like the front-line workers and so can be issued with the cards in the same way, but they also need to think about the task, activity, process, procedure, etc. that they are designing for others to work on or with. Are they building error precursors into their design or document? Can they be avoided or mitigated at design stage? For example, if we design a conveyor system, are we making sure that the motor and maintainable parts can be reached without the need to work at height, or in relative darkness? If we are designing a building where all the cables will be run through an underground basement, have we considered the likelihood of flooding, does the height of the basement ceiling mean that workers will have to stoop to gain access? For these workers, having the WITH model on a desk-card or wall poster might be more appropriate or can you develop a more intuitive way of using the tool, e.g. building it in to your software programmes, etc.?

OK, so we know we all make errors, we now know what might precede the error thanks to the “WITH” Model, but what now?

Work with what you know and allow your natural instinct to kick in:-

It’s your first day back at work after annual leave, you are asked to do an urgent job you haven’t done for some time because a piece of equipment has broken down over the weekend. You recall that the procedure was incorrect the last time the job was done and you’re not sure whether it has been updated. You know that a colleague who normally does the job is at work today but he or she is very busy. The line has been down for the morning shift and if you don’t get it sorted, it will also be down for the next shift which comes in at 2pm.

We have listed a number of error precursors here, can you identify them?

How would you mitigate the risk of something going wrong in this scenario?

Please provide us with some feedback and/or have a go at this little exercise with your work colleagues or team? These are things that catch us out every day. There is nothing particularly unique or unusual here so what exactly do you do now?

In my next blog in this series I will start to introduce you to a whole suite of error reduction tools and techniques which, once you have predicted an error, you can select from to help reduce the likelihood of it happening or reduce the consequences when it does! 

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