Safety science researchers have proposed that the fifth age of safety has begun and have identified it as an adaptive age, one which is being depicted as where a fluid adaptive organisational culture will need to exist and where leadership will also need to become ‘adaptive’ in order to cope with the increasing complexity of the socio-technical systems in which most work is now conducted.
Fitting into this paradigm shift is the concept of Organisational Mindfulness which developed out of the research on High Reliability Organisational (HRO) theory, and later Organisational Resilience theory. Organisational mindfulness can be seen as a pro-social activity involving people within a workgroup that perform a number of actions, including valuing the experience of others, questioning assumptions about the best way to conduct work practices and using group based problem solving for everyday workplace issues which arise.
The key to the effectiveness of organisational mindfulness is acknowledged to be the close relationship between the workforce and the repertoire of actions conducted by them, where adaptive action is required to constrain instability and maintain the reliability of the organisation. At the group level it is expected that workers would be able to take notice of new variables and increase their ability to become aware of and deal with a greater number workplace issues, in essence being more ‘mindful’.
Mindless acts such as simplification of routines, and strict adherence to set job descriptions are discouraged and humans become valued for their flexibility and ability to both notice and respond to issues as they arise.
Current research is investigating the two developing concepts in this area being, Organisational Mindfulness and Mindful Organising and investigating how the workforce can assist in ensuring organisational remain resilient in the face of everyday and extraordinary operational events.
These adaptive theories point toward the notion that workers play an important role and are an adaptive system element to be understood and harnessed in order to create and enable safety, in effect valuing humans for their efforts in ensuring organisations are resilient.
This update was kindly provided by Dr Karen Klockner, who presented ‘Developing Organisational Resilience: Organisational Mindfulness and Mindful Organising’ at the 2017 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference.
2018 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference
The 2018 Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held on the 21-22 May at the Star Gold Coast. Enjoy professional development and the exchange of current ideas and practices between emergency and disaster management practitioners from Australia and New Zealand and further afield.