Episode 14

How organizational structure impacts upon operational safety

March 31, 2021



Listeners may recall a recent podcast with Professor Andrew Hopkins where we discussed the role of organisational structure in creating a culture. In this week’s podcast, we take this concept one step further with Gilsa Monteiro, a process safety specialist in one of the leading Oil and Energy companies in the world, and a PhD student who understudied Professor Andrew Hopkins.

Gilsa’s study is concerned about process safety and accident hazards in an operational context. The central question of this podcast is – ‘How organisational structure impacts upon operational safety?’

To answer this question, Gilsa systematically addresses the following sub-questions whilst carefully balancing her research skills with in-depth operational know-how:

What is centralized and decentralized decision-making?
What are the dangers of a decentralized structure?
How do we design the organization to strengthen operational safety?
What are the arguments against a more centralized and independent approach to operational safety?
What are the factors that could lead to the failure of centralized structure?
Toward the end Gilsa provides some practical tips for creating a centralised structure to manage operational safety with a clear forewarning that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions


How do organizational structures impact operational safety? Part 1 – Understanding the dangers of decentralization

How do organizational structures impact operational safety? Part 2 – Designing structures that strengthen safety

Further information

[00:00:06] Nippin Anand: Welcome to another episode of Embracing Differences with me Nippin Anand. This podcast series is meant to bring you different perspectives and concepts in safety. The idea really is to create space for thinking and reflection, not to reinforce any grand theories or our prior knowledge on a subject. The aim is to learn and grow, not to remain stagnant. And of course, as I keep saying there is no reason for you to believe me or any so-called expert but keep an open mind and be prepared to challenge your beliefs if you truly want to learn more than what you knew yesterday.

[00:00:45] Today’s podcast is an extension of a previous podcast with Professor Andrew Hopkins. Andrew discussed at length how structure sets the tone of the culture within the organization and that every decision, every action is influenced by how performance is understood, measured, incentivized and penalized by the leaders within the organization.

Today we take this concept one step further with Gilsa Monteiro who happens to be not only a process safety specialist in one of the leading oil and energy companies in the world but also someone who has understudied Andrew Hopkins. Gilsa asks the question how organizational structure influences operational safety which is more grounded in practice not least because of her background and research interests.

Gilsa asks a range of questions in this podcast and warns us about the dangers of decentralizing safety which means allowing business units within the corporate body to make their own decisions about safety and technical excellence without much interference from the centrally located headquarters of the organization. The questions she asks are:

What is centralized and decentralized decision-making?
The dangers of a decentralized structure – practical examples;
Designing the organization to strengthen operational safety;
Facing the arguments against a more centralized and independent approach to operational safety;
What can make a more centralized structure fail?
The collaborative work of an engineer with a sociologist – The interdisciplinary approach we need to advance on the comprehension of org. factors

[00:02:53]: So Gilsa, thank you very much for joining and accommodating. Prof. Andrew Hopkins speaks very highly of you. But I would like to know a little more about you from yourself.

[00:03:04] Gilsa Monteiro: Okay so let me say a few words about myself. I’m a chemical engineer and I’ve been working with risk analysis and process safety in the oil and gas industry for nearly 18 years. During this period of time, I had the chance to work in different departments. In the beginning, I worked very close to operational teams of off shore production platforms. Later, I had the chance to join the basic engineering design team working with upstream and downstream departments of the company. Finally, I acquired the position in the process safety corporate department which is where I am now working as a process safety specialist.

[00:03:54] During this whole experience I could see problems and issues in decision making processes from different perspectives. I could notice how the organizational structure of the company can be influenced on the way we communicated things among departments or didn’t communicate. We made our decisions in the end, the way we were managing the risks of major accidents of our process facilities and I think I have always been passionate about understanding how organizations work. In 2017, I was a PhD student and I had to address the main topic to be in my PhD thesis. Then I thought, this is the opportunity I have to explore this issue and develop a better comprehension, not only about structures but how in a situation of arrangements that I could see the company I was working for, influenced the way we behave in a company.

[00:05:11] By the institutional of arrangement, it is a very important concept. Structure is one of them, but by institutional arrangements I mean, the arrangement that are established by the leaders that highly influence in the way we do things in a company. I’m talking about structures, bonus systems, indicators etc. I decided that I need expertise and knowledge from human and social science. I was making my PhD in the nuclear engineering Department of the Federal university of Rio De Janerio in Brazil. But then I realized that if I wanted to advance my comprehension on this topic, I needed knowledge and expertise from other areas and then I decided to write an email to Prof. Andrew Hopkins. He had been in the company I work for a couple of years before that giving lectures and talks with managers. I explained to him my ideas and what a coincidence that he was writing a book on this topic that published two years ago -Organizing for safety.

[00:06:45] You also had a podcast with him about this book. It was an excellent podcast. So, we could arrange things and then I stayed in for just a year in the school of sociology at the Australian National University working with him. We published two papers in Safety Science which are the basis for this podcast. I’d really like to discuss it with you with the ideas on the papers. It was an amazing learning experience. It completely changed my mind view. I realized how engineers and sociologists think differently. How we address a problem in different ways.

So, if you present a problem to an engineer, he’s going to open up a notebook make some calculations and provide you with an answer as fast as he or she can in the most effective way. If you present a problem to a sociologist; they are obsessed by the research questions. So, they’re going to address that what is the question I have to answer? What is the problem I have? Is this the best question to address this problem?

So, I think that this makes the whole difference. After this whole experience after this learning journey, I have I think that we need to bring this kind of expertise to our major hazard companies. I think that just with this interdisciplinary approach we will be capable of advancing our knowledge in organizational factors and how they are influenced the way we do things. I realized that you have a PhD in Social Sciences, so please let me know a little bit of your experience.

[00:08:33] Nippin Anand: Yeah, sure. Gilsa, I must say it’s such an honor to know you but also in the way you introduced yourself there was so much passion in what you do. It’s so easy to sense that passion. You believe in something and that comes across so quickly even from such a long distance. I think there is something in common here. I come from India and I have been living in the UK for the last 15 years and so my journey started off with being on ships. I used to work on ships for 11 years and then I came to the UK to do a Masters in Economics and ended up doing a PhD in Social Sciences. But I fell love with cultural anthropology.

[00:09:14] I am intrigued by this whole idea of how much we are missing if we don’t understand how social Sciences work you know how much we are missing if we don’t understand how social sciences work. Somebody said to me that social sciences are nothing but general knowledge, well researched. What might come up with as a conclusion of your PhD, they’ll turn around and say “What’s the big deal? I know that already”. But I think that it’s the critical thinking that triggers the reasoning, the understanding, of connecting the macro with the micro. How the small things connect with the big problems in the world. This is unique strengths that you get when you do a Ph.D. I envy you that you had the opportunity to do a PhD with one of the most famous social scientists not just in accident hazards but also in general. Somebody who has such a unique ability to present such complicated complex problems in simple words.

[00:10:10] Gilsa Monteiro: It was an amazing learning experience and had the opportunity to get to know other sociologists and I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was the only engineer in the school sociology in a different country with different culture and I think that it was really good because I was completely open to new ideas so it helped me a lot. In this podcast I would really like to discuss with you and address the topic of how organizational structures impact operational safety.

My main argument here, is that a decentralized structure may undermine operational safety. By that I mean the branch of safety that focuses on the prevention, mitigation and response to accidents. It’s what we call in the oil and gas industry as process safety. To do that I have prepared a sequence of questions. I think that this will help us follow our line of reasoning to address this topic that I am posing here.

[00:11:36] So, the first question is, what I mean by a decentralized structure? I think that it is important to explain that. After that, what are the dangers of a decentralized structure? After that, if we agree that we need a safety function in our company that is more centralized and independent from business pressures. Ok, but the third question on how to design an organization in order to strengthen the safety function? Finally, what is it that can make this safety function fail?

At the end of the discussion, I would like to have a message to say that there is no one fits all solution. I really enjoy the idea when you say “Embracing Different ideas” and I’m going to provide some food for thought. Structures don’t exist in isolation order aspects that must be put together with the structure in order for the high package to work.

[00:13:14] My first question: What do I mean by a decentralized structure? By this I mean the dispersion of decision-making autonomy within the company. So, if you think about decisions about how we manage the risks of major accidents. In a decentralized company, these decisions will be made as far as possible from the local site of the process facility, at the business unit level rather than at the corporate department. So, in other words decisions are transferred to this business units and the business unit manager comes every assess authority for schedules, productions, cost reductions and safety. Of course, this manager has a group of safety professionals that are directly subordinated to him to provide input and evaluate the risks for his or her final.

[00:14:24] This whole arrangement produces many advantages. Resolving matters at lower levels is more time efficient. So, since decisions don’t need to be harsh about the hierarchy of the company our decisions are faster. Also, this kind of arrangement provides business units with room for innovation and they can look for solutions and service providers who are geographically located next to the process facilities which makes everything easier. So, in terms of commercial or financial considerations there are a lot of advantages. But when we think about safety there are some disadvantages that we need to think about.

[00:15:21] I proceed to my second question: So, what are the dangers of this decentralized arrangement?  I think that we need to make a picture in our minds about this decentralized organization here. So, you can think about many different business units that can be viewed as individual companies linked together by a corporate center that establishes general safety guidelines, safety criteria, goals and technical requirements that will be deployed in the standards and procedures of each one of those business units.

Suppose you have, in this arrangement, a group of experts who are in charge of developing or maintaining the technical standards that the business unit has to follow. But then you can think about a situation in which the business unit manager wants to deviate from a technical requirement. In a decentralized organization usually this business unit manager has the authority to grant a waiver to a technical requirement sometimes not even consulting group of safety experts who had developed a technical framework.

[00:16:50] Of course, you will have a group of safety experts who will assess the risks of not following that requirement provide input for this final decision. But this arrangement has some disadvantages. So first of all, this business unit group may lack the expertise and knowledge that is required for an effective risk evaluation. Maybe it’s because they are directly subordinated to this business unit manager who probably has some strong reason to not follow that requirement has a lot of pressures over the shoulders at this technical team, so they may lack the independence that is required to perform an effective risk analysis. We know of many sociopsychological processes or mechanisms that can occur in a group that is under a lot of pressure having to support a decision like that. Mechanisms such as confirmation bias, group thinking and so on. So, this is the kind of arrangement that favors the occurrence of these mechanisms of fluid rationales that will support bad decisions in the end.

[00:18:19] So, the between a production in an arrangement like that may be end up being ineffectively managed. So, the right balance may not be achieved and this is the kind of context that when a safety issue is raised, no one wants to come to the conclusion that the associated risk is within that equation of the risk matrix. So, arguments are posed in order to justify that the risks can be accepted in order not to compromise a long-term production goal. So, it seems to me that sometimes the risk analysis prosses is not a process to provide critical thinking and to really think about the whole situation, to fully form a decision it seems to me that sometimes a risk analysis process is a process to validate a decision that has already been made. So, I don’t know if you have experienced such a situation if you want to share with me some experience and then we can continue.

[00:19:33] Nippin Anand: Fascinating you say not one but many situations like that where the purpose of the risk assessment is basically to support the decision and not to not to question the decision, not to question the robustness of the process but to reinforce what I call it ‘beating the monkey to get the desired answer’. So, you keep beating the monkey until you get the desired answer that’s in my view that’s risk assessment. That’s what it does but you made a very interesting point and I would like to play the devil’s advocate here when you say that it works in your favor to have a centralized technical authority or technical expertise because they would look at things more than totality technical standards that they have developed over a period of time are quite robust as against the local adaptations that are needed at the decentralized level which tend to compromise between safety and production and more or less always lean towards production yeah so, my question to you is that one could also argue that in this kind of an arrangement and I don’t know if you want to cover it later on and I’m fine by that. The attention that comes in many cases that technical expertise or technical authority could also be far removed from the realities of the operational context the, cultural context in which the business operating. The better solution that might be more appropriate in that moment. So, what is your view on that?

[00:21:05] Gilsa Monteiro: Okay, let me continue a little bit because I can then provide more arguments to explain the final suggestion in terms of structure. I think that the one point that I would like to emphasize that this whole idea of who in the structure should have the authority to grant a waiver to a technical requirement was an issue observed and addressed by for example the Columbia Accident Investigation board.

I think that the board who investigated the accidental to NASA space shuttle – Columbia in 2003, was very interesting and important that they conclude that the separation of authority between what they called the ‘owners of the technical requirements’, from the managers who as they stated would be more sensitive to issues such as production, costs and schedule. So, this separation according to this board would be crucial for safety because structure define the at the level of independence the authority assignment to technical experts in decision making process and this in turn influence the power they have to enhance on the final decisions.

[00:22:41] Then if you compare this conclusion to the dynamics of a decentralized company you going to realize that a decentralized company does the opposite because of it all the authority in one person in the business unit level. So, I think this is a very interesting point for us to understand what is behind this argument that I bring here. I’m not saying here, that centralized company cannot have safe outcomes. Of course, they can have. This is a kind of arrangement that is more likely to experience a less than rigorous decision in some point in time at some part of the company when the decision maker faces a tradeoff between production and safety. To give you an example, I experienced this situation and I think that this example depicts what I’m trying to explain well. Once I was discussing with an integrity manager from a business area topic and we had many safety concerns regarding the management strategies that this manager was trying to apply to handle the problem. I had a group of other safety experts with me in the functional line in the safety structure that is outside the business area. So, it’s a structure that provides this kind of separation that I’m talking about. After many meetings and discussions, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to achieve an agreement.

[00:24:41] We needed to escalate the problem. So, we wrote a report explaining all the arguments we had, all the safety concerns regarding that strategy that was being proposed by that manager and we escalated the problem and the final solution was a kind of a balance that took into account the arguments that we put in that report. So, I think that this is the beauty of a structure to get the safety experts and put them outside the business area. It’s a kind of structure that provides insights and checks and balances in this particular situation. There was something very significant for me as I’m passionate about understanding how organization works, I pay attention all the time to do this kind of things and we had a colleague who is a technical expert would attended all the meetings, discussing the problems with us, agreed with our conclusions but in the end this technical expert was within the business area so in the end, this person comes to us and said I cannot sign this report unfortunately.

[00:26:07] I totally understood what was happening but for me it was an excellent example to describe what I’m trying to explain here and we can think about many factors. We can think about what kind of culture does this business area is this that does not allow a person to raise bad news or a dissenting here, we can think about the psychological aspects influence on the final decision of this person- how would my manager think about this whole situation in which I signed this report? As this person wants to be viewed as a person who is part of the team so this person is under a lot of pressure because of the structure, that’s what I’m trying to explain here. So, I think that we cannot overlook anymore the way this structure influences our behavior and the way we make decisions in the company.

[00:27:18] I think that now maybe we can we can proceed to the third question “OK we agree that we need a more independent safety function or more centralized one but how to design the organization to achieve that? The first point we probably need is a separation of authority. I need a kind of structure that provides us with this separation of authority. We can think about that so I need to kind of structure that combines two forms of a production one and a functional one. So, when we think about that, it comes to my mind a kind of matrix structure.

[00:28:02] This structure is a kind of collaborative arrangement that can be adopted by decentralized companies, organizes in business units in order to provide a more centralized control of some critical functions such as safety. So, a matrix can be an option. I will talk about the one described in this paper that we published in safety science – How do organizational structures impact operational safety. Part 2 explains in detail what I’m going to say. When we think about a matrix structure, there is an aspect of this which is that employees have two lines of reporting- usually an employee has two lines of reporting. One connected to the business unit manager and the other connected to the functional manager. In our case, the safety manager. These lines will be arranged to make the whole difference. So, what we suggest as a possible structure to strengthen safety is a structure in which first of all, the safety expert is embedded in the process facility, in the business unit and this is a very important aspect because we need people living the daily routine of the process facility connected to the reality of the process facility and with the ability to up to identify high potential dangers and hazards. So that’s the idea.

[00:29:58] This guy is connected with this business unit manager but providing services to this manager and this guy answers not to this business unit manager but to a safety manager who is outside the business area. So, if we use that are typical of representation that we find in that we can hide in the organizational charts with dotted lines and solid lines which is a little bit confusing. But what I’m saying here is that the safety expert would be connected to the business unit manager through a dotted line that gives a provision of services but he would be connected by a solid line to this safety manager meaning that he or she answers to this safety manager so basic manager is the one who selects his expert who defines the goals to be pursued by this safety expert, who evaluates the performance of this safety expert which will probably impact in the pay amount and bonus system of this guy, not the business unit manager so this can make up the whole difference because then we can have a more independent state function. This person must have the authority to intervene in order to avoid decisions that may compromise safety and if there is any kind of disagreement the issue can escalate using this functional line.

[00:31:51] In a final aspect, is the position occupied by the head of the safety function because this is the function must go progressively all the way to the top of your organization. So, the position occupied by the head of the safety function influences on the power and authority that this leader will have in the decision-making process that occur at the top of your organization. So, it’s important to have a safety leader directly connected just below the CEO of the company with the voice that equal to the voice of the business area leaders.

[00:32:35] So this also is another important characteristic of this design that we are suggesting to strengthen and then we can come to the profile of this safety leader and of course, that this person must have strong non-technical skills such as leadership, ability to manage conflicts, the ability to communicate problems and so on. But this person also must present a strong competence and technical knowledge. We cannot talk about process safety with the leader that does not have this strong technical competence because this person needs to understand the problems that people below him or her will bring up to this position and this person needs to communicate this problem with compelling technical arguments.

[00:33:40] I think you can make the connection with one podcast that you have about soft skills and I think that it is if I’m not mistaken in the podcast you talk about also the important of technical knowledge as the whole package. We cannot just focus on one side and forget the other. So, if you want you to add more food for thought on this topic, I would appreciate it a lot.

[00:34:15] Nippin Anand: It was such a fascinating way in which you described. So, in my mind I see what you’re saying is that you have a very critical role here for somebody to fulfill. So there’s three things to it one is that this person or this function has to be embedded in the business and as a supplier of a service, is making sure that the business unit is  technically sound things that are made are technically sound our process safety oriented so the that any tradeoff between safety and production is made with technical arguments with technical excellence let’s put it this way now this person is not accountable to the business unit this person is answerable to somebody else who is who is somewhere else in the line and that person then could be his or her direct manager then has the authority or the backing from the senior leadership to all the way up from the CEO of the company.

[00:35:15] Third aspect of what you’re saying is that this person should have a holistic understanding both from a technical perspective but also from a non-technical perspective so he should be apart from being a good communicator that person should have a very sound understanding of process safety. I think they should I think there’s a third element to it which is that person should have an appreciation of the business context – how the business operates and how the different stakeholders of the business, what their expectations are he or she may not necessarily have to be influenced by those decisions of course, that’s not his role but to be aware of the wider context of the business, the regulatory conflicts that the client and the customer context so the end user or the operators concept context so I think this person has to have a very good appreciation of the business unit to which in which he or she is supplying that service that’s the only thing I would say.

[00:36:01] Gilsa Monteiro: I totally agree with you this is this is not easy I think people need to develop over the time so we need people with some characteristics and do this daily routine that they are living through this experience as they are having at then we can have an arrangement that we work in an independent way. But it takes time I think we cannot have the illusion that we going to redesign and safety function. You could imagine OK I agree with you I will follow this recipe it seems the recipe and I will do this change in my major hazard company and everything is going to work well no people need to get it used to this new way of doing things at any fixed time sometimes it’s not easy.

[00:37:13] I can see from my personal experience that every time there is an organizational restructure, a redesign, a change people are out of their comfort zone, they are afraid about what is going on? How should I behave? So, after redesigning, to achieve this structure or these characteristics, it takes time for the whole package to work and we need people with this profile that we’re talking about. People who understand the business and the business must be clear about what are the expectations of process safety must be clear for we the whole organization.

[00:38:09] We can proceed to my final question that I what can make this structure fail? We need competent people with technical knowledge and also with soft skills. We need time for this organizational design or its structure. We need time for us to learn how to work in this kind of structure. I think that is required and there is another aspect that I’m always concerned about. We need a number of people in the safety of function that is able to manage the workloads because if we have a staff event with the very few groups of people, they will become overwhelmed by the workload and the whole structure will not work and this is an important point because sometimes companies want to optimize the staff. By that they mean reduce the reduced the number of people in each Department and they don’t realize come on we have some work process and we need a certain amount of competent people to handle the workload on this one.

If you don’t have structure is not well resourced it will not work. So, this is another aspect people need to reflect on. Ok I changed my design but it is not working well. Okay but what about the other aspects that must come together with this structure?

Another point that I think it’s important to understand that interdisciplinary is a main feature of process safety we need to understand what time’s office specialties we need to put together in this Department in order for this whole structure to work – the specialty, size, number of people and the profile file that is huge and technical competence people of people of this structure. These are aspects that you need to think about if you want to succeed in this organizational redesign.

[00:40:58] Nippin Anand: Great! You know what I’m thinking as you’re speaking, I think that it was a fascinating discussion so far but I just worry how most organizations see expertise these days. Expertise has become such a difficult thing in many organizations to understand the importance of expertise. You talked about specialties or special rules and it takes sometimes takes 20-30 years to develop experts in a particular area. Forget about actually bringing them in the room creating synchronism between them. That is another big aspect that is you have disciplines of experts but how do you bring them together and make it work because ultimately that is where safety lies. Isn’t it? How do you bring people from different disciplines together and make it work for you? But I think a bigger one of the challenges is that companies don’t realize the importance of expertise these things in the way expertise is rewarded in the way expertise is nurtured enhanced in organizations. I think we are moving away from that and that’s a very dangerous. The precedence is given to managers. People who can run the show rather than people who understand the context to spend years trying to build that knowledge and experience. I am very worried about that.

[00:42:15] Gilsa Monteiro: I agree and this is a concern I have specially go through some periods of times in which we have a lot of excellent experts retiring and leaving the company. We need to think about how are we going to build that knowledge. In fact, we need to think about it so much before the moment people retire or have a bigger opportunity and go to another company. That happens all the time. So, the organization must be aware. In my opinion, we should have a kind of a redundance with people. If we have this kind of redundance, we can put together something who has the expertise and they will have the time to train this person who will become an expert in the near future. If you don’t have this kind of process, I too am concerned about organizations are not realizing the importance of having redundant people and allowing them to train other people to become experts because we are going to depend on this expertise. Some companies do it better than others but I think there is room for much improvement.

[00:44:32] Nippin Anand: But I think this goes back to what you said in the beginning. Technical expertise or nurturing of the expertise will come only if the structure supports it. If you have somebody who reports the CEO or the CEO himself or herself genuinely appreciates the importance of having expertise then you will have expertise in the organization. But if that thinking does not exist at the top, then how do you then promote that idea? how do you nurture it?

It’s again a very structural problem goes back to where you started off from. isn’t it?

[00:45:09] Gilsa Monteiro: Yeah, and you are raising an aspect that I think it’s fundamental that leaders if it makes you think about all that we are discussing here or it structures impact operational safety. So, if the structure is more centralized and independent from business pressure. This is good OK. But I need a leader who understands this message and who provides the structure that has this kind of characteristic because all that we are trying to achieve is a structure that allows or removes technical expertise in the decision-making process. If you don’t have a leader who understands this message, we will never be having a structure like that but this structured designed of the organization establishment of a particular structure is an act of power of this leader.

[00:46:25] He has the power to do that. He has the power to create and can change the culture of the organization. But he needs to understand that and he needs to be willing to do a change to create a culture that is more positive in terms of safety. Then we can think not only about the structures, we can think about bonus systems, indicators and so on. It’s all in the hands of these leaders to do the changes that we need to achieve a better culture in terms of safety in our organization. So, I think that you raise up very important point we cannot make this whole discussion disconnected from the leaders.

[00:47:17] Nippin Anand: Great is there anything you would like to say at the end, Gilsa?

[00:47:22] Gilsa Monteiro I think that the first is, we cannot overlook anymore the influence that structures have on the way we do things in the company. I think we need to be aware of that and we need to be aware of the dangers of a decentralized structure but there is no one fits all solution. So, organization must reflect on their own structures in order to discover what is not OK in terms of safety and what kinds of changes can be done in the design to strengthen safety. We cannot have the illusion that OK now I’m going to perform a huge organizational change and everything is going to work well now. Structure does not exist in isolation. There are other organizational aspects that must be taken into account for the whole package to work and everything is in the hands of the leaders. The leaders need to establish the institutional arrangements that will create the culture that they are looking for. I think that’s the final message.

[00:48:36] Nippin Anand: Great just one last question: What is the impact of doing a PhD? Because you have a practitioner’s background all the way and then you had the opportunity to do a PhD. How has this PhD changed your way of thinking?

[00:48:49] Gilsa Monteiro: I think that this Ph.D. has changed my worldview. Every time something happens for example in the organization, I try to understand the background – But why we are acting or behaving like that? So, I think that this kind of critical thinking was something that I really developed in with the PhD. It’s something that sometimes we you act in a certain manner but you don’t stop to think about what is leading you to act in that certain manner. I think that the Ph.D. made me a more a person who reflects more about these things and try and I try all the time to understand why are we behaving like that in our company, what are the arrangements that are producing this behavior and so I think I became obsessed by- “what is the research question I need to answer?” that better addresses the problem. I’m very grateful for this opportunity I had. It was a gift I think in my life and in my career.

[00:51:13] Nippin Anand: Great, thank you very much for your time!

What do you think?

Shortly after the podcast I wrote to Gilsa reflecting upon what my idea of safety function to ensure technical integrity and process safety and what the role of the central organisation would seem to appear:

resourced very well to ensure continuous monitoring and responding to decentralized business units (resourced)
Comprise of technically sound expertise in all aspects of business operations (knowledgeable)
Be familiar with the business context when overriding safety over production (technical people sometime loose the sensitivity to operational conditions when they are removed in time and space) – sensitive
Not be influenced by commercial decisions – (independent)
be very accessible when needed – (accessible)
be able to prove their value to the business (board) over a period of time – (value adding)

I hope you enjoyed the session, if you are not the CEO or Vice President of Safety within your organisation I would strongly encourage you to pass this podcast to your leaders. And if you are the CEO, I would encourage you to reflect upon Gilsa’s work and discuss with your board members. That is where safety should really start from. Thank you for listening. Have a great day.

[00:53:19]: Thank you for taking the time to listen to this podcast. I hope the time you spent was worthwhile. If you think the podcast has made you think, slow down and reflect, I have achieved my purpose. Please share it with others in your community so that messages reaches far and wide.

I spend a lot of time thinking, researching and producing meaningful content. If there is a specific top you’d wish to know more about, please let me know. If I can, I will make every attempt to create something meaningful and valuable to you. If you have a topic that you would like to discuss with me, please feel free to be in touch. Particularly if there is something you don’t agree with. Disagreements are always fun.

I wish to also remind you that all my podcasts, related reference material and transcript for each podcast is available on my website, novellus.solutions. You can also get in touch with me on the same website or through LinkedIn, Twitter or my personal website, nippinanand.com.

Andrew Hopkin’s podcast: How structure creates culture

Gitte Damm’s podcast on Crew Resource Management (non-technical skills)