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Is Your Organization a HERO?

Over the past several years, you have likely heard or read something from MRO promoting High Reliability Organization (HRO) theory. HRO theory is used by organizations in complex environments where accidents can be catastrophic. Over time, HRO theory has evolved and provides guidance for modern safety program design and is foundational to many industries seeking high reliability in critical functions.

Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe articulate in their book, Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity, the five overarching principles of HRO theory:

1. Preoccupation with failure.

2. Reluctance to simplify.

3. Sensitivity to operations.

4. Commitment to resilience.

5. Deference to expertise.

These five principles are fundamental and are the basis of improvements in quality, reliability, productivity, and resiliency. Organizations that have these qualities produce a collective state of mindfulness. To be mindful is to have a rich awareness and a discriminatory sense of detail, which enhances the ability to discover and correct errors before the errors compound and escalate into a crisis. By developing mindfulness, organizations can demonstrate the capacity to anticipate and contain unexpected problems.

MRO’s adoption of HRO theory and application of its principles to reliability led to the creation of HEROs, or Highly Effective Reliability Organizations®. In our industry, HEROs are the companies (and individuals) that work each day to keep the small stuff small and prevent uncontrolled, cascading system events.

HRO theory is the perfect framework for implementing the high standards of operational excellence needed to support the ERO Enterprise’s shared vision of a highly reliable and secure North American bulk power system. Taking this concept a step further, MRO translated the HRO theory in its mission statement, which is “to identify, prioritize and assure effective and efficient mitigation of risks to the reliability and security of the North American bulk power system by promoting HEROs.”

MRO promotes HEROs by sharing information, lessons learned and best practices with industry through a variety of assessments, reports and outreach activities. Additionally, MRO recognizes individuals for their exemplary initiative and commitment to advancing the theory and principles of HROs through our annual HERO Award.

So how do you know if your organization is a HERO?

MRO adapted a HERO Survey that allows companies to assess how well they implement several activities that support the five HRO principles. The survey results inform respondents of where they are highly effective and reliable, and where work remains to be done. The survey results are returned to the individual completing the survey, and not shared with MRO.  The survey can be downloaded from our website and shared across your organization. You can take the survey now, and then take it again after implementing changes based on the survey results.

The survey is an excellent tool to strengthen awareness and build a capacity for mindfulness within your organization – we encourage you to take it!