The Weekly Reflektion 17/2022

Failure of leadership and supervision is often noted as a factor in incidents and accidents. Unfortunately, this is often an observation made by the investigation team and not a cause that has been identified through an assessment of why the leadership/supervision failed.

Are your expectations to operational leaders/supervisors clear?

One of the perceived advantages of the digital revolution is the ease by which important information can be made available to interested parties. Information on accidents, incidents and their investigations is a good example. In theory we should be well placed to, firstly be made aware of the incident, and secondly to get access to report on the investigation into the incident. The combination of awareness and the information on the incident and its causes should provide a good basis for learning and for prevention of further incidents. However, utilising the advantages of the digital revolution pre-supposes that the quality of the investigations into incidents is good and that the causes are properly identified. This is currently not the case for many investigations into incidents in the Petroleum Industry in Norway. Several of our recent Reflektions have highlighted this challenge.

The availability of incident reports has also given us the opportunity for review and crititicsm and to hopefully point to some areas where improvements could be made. As always we hope that this criticism is perceived as a genuine attempt to improve an area that so sorely needs improving.

In several incident reports a recommendation for learning is to ensure that the operational leaders/supervisors prioritise being out in the field to ensure that the planning and execution of activites are carried out in accordance with the management system. In these incidents the people involved did not follow the relevant procedures and this was identified as a underlying cause in the investigation.

The implication here is that the supervisors need to get out there and make sure people are following the procedures in the work they carry out. Whether this means assurance on every task, every second task, specific tasks, risky tasks, etc, is not made clear. Often there is no reference to any procedure/process that describes the expectations to the supervisor and his/her interaction with the people he/she is supervising. 

Interestingly  in the investigation reports we reviewed there was no details on why the people did not follow the procedures and hence no real basis to suggest that lack of supervision was a contributory factor. There was also no information on why the supervisors did not prioritise being out in the field to carry out the supervision that was obviously expected of them. Typical examples of ‘why’ not adequately pursued. 

While searching for a definition of leadership we came across.

‘Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.’

Note that verification and assurance that people follow procedures is not noted in this definition. The essence here is ‘social influence’. ‘Social’ means that the supervisor must engage with the people and create dialog and reflection. ‘Influence’ means guiding and coaching and changing the way people think about and carry out their tasks. This also means helping people with the problems they may have in carrying out their tasks in accordance with the established procedures.

What expectations do you have to your supervisors and how they influence their team to ensure safe and efficient operations?

Reflekt AS