November 17, 2021 | Mark Paradies

Human Performance Improvement Snake Oil

Snake Oil

Will Snake Oil Improve Human Performance?

Does the video above seem familiar? Has someone sold you some snake oil for human performance improvement at your facility or company? Did they trick you with statistics that are really the result of the Hawthorne Effect or Regression to the Mean?

Detecting Snake Oil

How can Snake Oil be repackaged in so many ways and disproven so many times, yet we buy it again and again?

The video above is all about detecting Snake Oil. But the same techniques it uses to detect medical quackery can be used to detect human performance improvement Snake Oil.

Spotting Human Performance Improvement Snake Oil

The first thing to watch for is the lack of human factors research that supports the effectiveness of the technique being offered. Ask, “what human factors research is this technique based on?”

Or you might study human factors research that shows that the technique might be ineffective. For example, you might question any human performance improvement technique that requires the operator or mechanic to “self-monitor” their own actions, behaviors, concentration, attention to detail, confusion, or doubt.

Why should you question the self-monitoring techniques? Because people aren’t good at self-monitoring. In fact, the act of self-monitoring just adds one additional task to an operator’s or mechanic’s attention that may already be overwhelmed with things to remember, diagnose, or do. This additional monitoring causes the workers to be even more overloaded. Thus, an attempt to predict and prevent errors actually adds to the likelihood of errors by overwhelming the people trying to monitor their own performance.

Why Does Management Believe in Human Performance Improvement Snake Oil?

But why would management believe that these types of techniques work?

First, management hopes that workers “trying harder” can reduce human errors. This “something for nothing” approach is never very sustainable.

Second, they are told that these techniques work and provided with proof. This proof is usually statistics that are the result of the Hawthorne Effect or Regression to the Mean. Just watch this video to learn more…

Or the proof may be in the form of word-of-mouth stories about the effectiveness of the techniques. It may be called an industry best practice. It may even be suggested by regulators or people with a Ph.D. The proof of these stories, once again, may be due to the Hawthorne Effect or Regression to the Mean. This makes it seem like the stories are believable.

How Do You Learn to Improve Human Performance?

First, you must learn about real human factors research and best practices. Techniques that have been proven by research and tested in laboratories and the field. Techniques that don’t add to the workers’ distraction and workload. Techniques that don’t promote blame.

Second, you should once again test the techniques that you believe will be the most effective at your worksites and see if you really produce statistically significant improvements. For information about collecting real proof that techniques work, see THIS LINK.

Finally, you should look for techniques that don’t claim to be universally effective. Techniques that are targeted to a specific kind of error instead of techniques that will prevent all human errors.

Learning About Stopping Human Errors

Stop Human Errors

How can you learn more about stopping human errors? Take this course:

Stopping Human Error

Here’s a video from over a year ago that will tell you more about the course…

Benna and Mark Discuss Stopping Human Error

When is the next public Stopping Human Error Course? CHECK HERE.

Register NOW and learn what you need to know to stop human error and improve human performance.

Thumbs Up

For more information about the Stopping Human Error book, CLICK HERE.

Human Performance
Show Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *