There are a few qualities we look for in life partners, friends and health care providers. One of the top characteristics is reliability — the probability that someone or something we depend on will consistently perform as intended.
Reliability in a friend or loved one is fairly easy to observe — calls are returned, confidences are kept and respect is upheld. However, how can we determine whether the organizations and businesses we work with are reliable?
High-Reliability Organizations are organizations, such as Sharp HealthCare, that operate under challenging conditions and yet manage to have fewer mistakes or accidents than may be expected under similar conditions or in comparison to similar organizations. Highly reliable organizations are dedicated to supporting a culture committed to safety and continuously striving for excellence. Other businesses that have adopted this approach are airlines, the military and nuclear power companies.
These businesses are successful because they are aware of the magnitude of their role and are reluctant to simplify the challenges they face. They are focused on pinpointing and preventing errors; willing to look to those with greater knowledge and expertise for guidance; and able to learn from mistakes to prevent them from happening again. They are also armed with a set of skills that — when used correctly — can decrease their error rate.
These skills can also be applied within our daily lives and help us to mitigate the challenges we face. Making mistakes is a natural part of being human. Errors might occur when we go about our daily tasks on auto pilot, act based on misapplied rules and procedures — for example, telling yourself that if bleach got a stain out of a white T-shirt, then it can also get a stain out of a black T-shirt — or try to solve new problems in unfamiliar situations.
“Many of the skills we apply to become a High-Reliability Organization are already used in everyday situations,” says Amy Kosifas, director of Sharp University, which fosters leadership development at Sharp.
Kosifas gave the following examples of five high reliability skills and how they apply to our everyday tasks:
1. Stop, Think, Act, Review (STAR)
STAR is a skill for focusing our attention on a task and developing strong self-checking habits. You are using the STAR skill when you buy something on the internet and take a moment to review your order before clicking the “place your order” button. The review happens once the order is submitted and you read it over to ensure it was correct.
Cross-monitoring helps us actively observe and check the actions of others to reduce or avoid errors. Imagine you are in the passenger seat of a car and warn the driver of a child crossing in front that might be out of their sight line — you are cross-monitoring.
3. Closed-Loop Communication
Closed-loop communication is used to ensure information given is accurately received. Asking your teenager to repeat back to you what time they are supposed to be home as they head out the door is an example of using closed-loop communication.
4. Asking a Clarifying Question
Asking a clarifying question ensures you understand a task or information you’ve received, and gives you the knowledge you need to be able to act. We frequently ask clarifying questions when ordering at a restaurant about how food is prepared or what ingredients are used.
5. Receiving and Giving Thoughtful Feedback
Receiving and giving thoughtful feedback is a skill that strengthens relationships and allows us to grow and be appreciated. When you send a friend or family member a birthday card or thank-you note, you are giving them feedback that tells them they are appreciated for all they contribute to your life.
“Continuing to use these skills at home helps reinforce their use at work,” Kosifas says. “You will become more and more reliable in everything you do.”