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Roberts and Rousseau's Characteristics of HROs

HROs maintain low error rates due to how they operate internally, specifically Roberts and Rousseau define eight specific characteristics and three features of HROs.1


Characteristics of HROs


In additional to the eight characteristics, HROs have three features.

1. High-reliability organizations are "invisible" until a failure occurs. At this point, the customer (or public) demands change to prevent such an event again. In comparison, failures in organizations that are not high reliability are typically not noticed, as they do not cause catastrophic damage to draw attention from the public.

2. HROs operate at the edge of human capacity. They push to the limits of human capability, thus rely on constant training and frequent rotations are often to preserve efficiency.

3. HROs have diverse constituencies in which the designers are frequently unaware of the human ability (or inability) to operating the designed system. The designers make the assumption that people can operate any system they design. These three features combined with the eight characteristics "create distinctive problems and methodological difficulties. These problems are different largely in degree from research problems in other complex organizations."1


1. Roberts, Karlene H. and Denise M. Rousseau. 1989. Research in Nearly Failure-Free, High-Reliability Organizations: Having the Bubble. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management. 36(2): 132-139.