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Our Insights

Human Performance Improvement helps us reduce the likelihood of making errors

October 5, 2019

By John Kumm
POWER Engineers

Awareness of Human Performance Improvement, or HPI for short, is increasing in our industry. While HPI appears new at first glance, it has a long history going back to Sigmund Freud’s work studying slips, trips, and lapses. Since that time, a broad range of people—from scholars and safety professionals to doctors, aviators and behavioral economists—have examined how and why we humans make mistakes.

Some mistakes are trivial: we make a wrong turn on the drive home because we’re distracted by the radio. Others—particularly in technical design practices and field work—can be catastrophic. Armed with the knowledge of how and why we commit those errors, can we reduce the likelihood of making an error? The practice of HPI tells us that we can!

POWER’s HPI journey began a few years ago. Procedural lapses in our field services team resulted in system mis-operations and indicated a need to improve performance.

With expert guidance from a consultant outside the company, we started to learn. We read books. We attended conferences. We got great advice from people we trust. And we began to change.

We trained our teams to recognize the conditions that increase the chances of error. We equipped them with tools and methods that can either prevent errors or catch them before they produce a loss. We more effectively shared our learning to continuously improve our own performance. Our improvement begat more improvement, which increased our passion to share our discoveries.

As we looked around for tools to simplify the explanation of HPI approaches, we found great resources, but not one that perfectly fit both our field service practice and our design practice. We decided to create our own: The Human Performance Improvement Pocket Guide.

It’s usually easy to recognize when you’re in a situation that increases the likelihood of an error (called an error precursor). But it’s not always clear what tools are best to lead yourself or your team through that situation without error.

The HPI Pocket Guide concisely describes 23 common error precursors, with relatable examples that help clarify how they appear in both the office and the field.

Task-oriented situations such as Time Pressure and High Workload, work-environment-oriented situations like Distractions and Interruptions—and 19 others that you’ll recognize from your own work are all clearly presented.

Along with every error precursor are three or four HPI tools that you and your team can use to improve performance. In all, the book discusses 17 HPI tools that are effective for reducing or mitigating errors. It’s small enough to keep with you for easy reference, and it’s weather-proof so you can have it when you need it.

Maybe best of all, we’re offering the HPI Pocket Guide free! We are convinced that HPI tools reduce design and operational errors, improve field safety, and increase system reliability. We’re also committed to the idea that any organization can benefit from deploying these tools in a way that is both effective and inexpensive.

We believe this book will help, so click here, HPI Pocket Guide, to request your free copy while supplies last. Or catch up with us at an upcoming industry event. We’ll either have a copy for you or know how to get you one.

Most importantly, we would love to read your HPI story. Share your learning with us and others – email us at HPI@PowerEng.com. We’ll include some of your stories in future HPI posts, and in our future email newsletters.

John Kumm is the Vice President, Field Services for POWER Engineers, Inc. He is an electrical engineer with extensive experience in protection scheme design, power system fault studies, relay setting calculation and substation user interface design.