Organising for Safety: How Structure Creates Culture

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How do we change the culture of an organisation? The culture change industry assumes that this is best done with educational campaigns - the hearts and minds approach. But this seldom works, because it does not come to terms with the real source of organisational culture - the way the organisation is structured.

This book, by Professor Andrew Hopkins, explores just how organisational structure shapes culture. It shows how decentralized organisational structures allow profit and production to take precedence over safety, while centralised risk control is conducive to a culture of operational excellence. The argument is based on case study material from the petroleum industry, the mining industry and even, the Australian Air Force.

Drawing on the theory of high reliability organisations, and also on recent scandals in banking industry, the book concludes with some suggestions as to how company boards can increase the effectiveness of the risk specialists in their organisations.

Book Reviews

“It has always been clear to me that culture change will not happen simply because the leader calls for it. As I have read this book it has increased my conviction that leaders who do want to change culture and improve risk management in their business must implement effective structural change which institutionalises the culture they strive for.

As ever, Andrew makes us think long and hard about what we say and what we do in practice. Real food for thought - and action - here”

Dame Judith Hackitt, Former Chair of UK Health and Safety Executive, Author of independent review for UK Government “Building Safer Futures”

In the most, critical formative years of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) one book stood out as essential reading for the organization --- Lessons from Longford, by Andrew Hopkins. The book later provided the model for CSB's approach in investigating the 2005 BP Texas City Refinery disaster. Organising for Safety is a timely addition to the list of must-read books by Hopkins. It includes valuable insights into a key question --- what are we to make of the notion of safety culture?

Bill Hoyle,retired Investigation Manager and Senior Investigator, U.S. Chemical Safety Board

"Organising for Safety has provided the key "missing link" for me in the High Reliability culture model. Our work has been focused at site level culture and leadership. I realize now that organization structure is critical to driving the right culture. I spent a month at the headquarters of Corporation X pondering their organization and why it didn't seem "right" to me, but I couldn’t pinpoint or articulate it. Now, thanks to this book, I can. We will certainly be incorporating these ideas into our work with large oil companies striving to become High Reliability Organizations.

Bob Koonce Commander United States Navy (retired) Founder, High Reliability Group LLC Co-Author of Extreme Operational Excellence: Applying the US Submarine Culture to your Organisation.

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