Safety Surveying What You Already Know
I received a post this week from someone who had conducted the typical orthodox safety survey. There are many such surveys on the market, all infused with STEM-only assumptions about materialist-rationalist safety. As I looked through the survey results and analysis there was nothing stated or measured that organisations don’t already know. The whole survey could have just as easily been undertaken with a walk around and a few conversations. Indeed, such a method is much better if one wants to know anything about culture.
One of the reasons I constructed the MiProfile Diagnostic (https://vimeo.com/24764673) was to target the many critical aspects of culture missing in every safety survey on the market regardless whether its is labelled ‘global’ or ‘culture’.
Most people are not aware that every survey is designed on the bias of the designer. If the bias is in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), then you are not likely to learn much about dehumanising dynamics in organising.
Run any discourse analysis across the popular safety surveys on the market and interrogate them with critical questions about anthropology, sociology, psychology, learning, theology, metaphysics, poetics, semiotics and politics and you will find all such analysis missing.
Methodologies are philosophies. A method is the outcome of a methodology (philosophy). Therefore a STEM-only philosophy will generate a STEM-only method. It will produce a method based on the assumptions of positivism and be weak on anthropological, sociological, psychological and cultural essentials in organising. As Safety understands itself as a Science and not as a helping profession, its surveys are most often based on STEM-only assumptions. The survey I was handed this week was designed in the UK and was at best naïve about surveying and asked nothing that had any import for the Social Psychology of Risk. Indeed, the survey assumed that social organising wasn’t important for decision making and so was really just a survey about systems. The questioning structure demonstrated 100% behaviourist assumptions about humans and organising. Not surprisingly, the questions were extremely amateurish and naïve about attitudes, values and beliefs. But if you want to quantify what you already know then this is the survey to make money. Trouble is, you won’t learn anything.
The following are all missing from every supposed ‘safety culture survey’ on the market. Critical elements of methodology are highlighted in bold text. All of these key SPoR elements are present in the MiProfile:
One of the most important dynamics in any survey on organising, climate or culture in safety ought to be able to quantify implicit decision making. Unconscious implicit decision making (Polanyi) is the foundation of all decisions based on heuristics and cognitive bias. None of the orthodox survey tools on the market even consider this as an aspect of survey design.
Any survey that doesn’t include focus group reflection on responses doesn’t understand the subjectivity of all surveying. There is no such thing as an objective survey or a neutral survey. All surveys are biased including the MiProfile survey that only seeks to analyse the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR). Organisational observations ought to also be a complementary part of a triangulated methodology.
All surveys that supposedly diagnose culture or climate in safety are locked into behaviourist/systems assumptions about risk. Unless culture is defined effectively such as in all the key elements of the culture cloud (https://vimeo.com/118458068 ) it is not likely that one is doing much more than surveying safety systems.
SPoR diagnostics understands culture as The Collective Unconscious and this assumption conditions both survey design, questioning structure and analysis, particularly in the light of capturing implicit (tacit) knowledge.
A critical aspect of SPoR surveying is the analysis of co-dependence, framing, priming and anchoring of the organisation to various semiotics and the way in which symbols, signs and discourse shape organising around risk.
Key elements of organisational sensemaking and collective mindfulness (Weick) ought to be threaded in any safety surveying diagnostic. Some of the popular surveys have some elements of these in their design but not comprehensively.
The importance of the work of Cameron and Quinn on the Competing Values Framework ought to be included in any survey design that projects to be about culture. I have never seen one on the market that included this in its methodology.
The analysis of indecision is also an important dynamic in the MiProfile survey. It is in moments of indecision that the anchoring of heuristics and semiotics drive poor decision making.
All of these dynamics are present in the design and methodology of the MiProfile (https://www.humandymensions.com/services-and-programs/miprofile/) and included analysis of how these dynamics influence the way things are organized and how leaders unconsciously facilitate un-safety and risk in their discourse.