Specifically, Madsen has been studying and quantifying how the organization recognizes "near-misses"-events where failures were narrowly averted resulting in successful outcomes.
A new study of
In other words, if you want to avert disasters, your employees need to feel like their work has greater significance, and they need to know that their leaders value safety.
"It is challenging for people to see something that didn't have an overtly bad outcome as a near-miss," Madsen said. "It's part of human nature: We tend to over-weigh what happened instead of what could have happened. But that can be changed by effective leadership."
Using a database of inflight anomalies for two decades (1989-2010) of unmanned
The findings, which appear in the
"If you're in an industry where safety is important and you really want your employees to pay attention to it, it takes not just talking about it, but backing it up," he said. "Employees are very good at picking up the signals that managers are giving about what they really value."
The same has been true for
Unfortunately, Columbia launched during an era of low near-miss reporting at
An investigation into the crash revealed that the failure that ultimately doomed the Columbia (foam debris striking the orbiter) happened on at least seven prior launches. On each of those, good fortune intervened. They were near-misses that became successes.
"A lot of safety improvements have happened after a disaster and they shine light on the deficiencies in the system," Madsen said. "If you can pick up on those deficiencies before something happens, that's the gold standard."
Madsen's connections to
He's continued his contacts with
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