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Applying Human Factors in Business Excellence Programs

Applying Human Factors in Business Excellence Programs

Applying Human Factors in Business Excellence Programs: Introduction

If you’ve been thinking about improvements and tangible results in a shorter time, now is the time to do it. More and more companies are adopting Human Factors to their Business Excellence Programs.

Business Excellence Programs popularity is rapidly growing. However, its implementation is far from problem-free. This can cause companies to may experience difficulties in sustaining long-term success.

A short-term direct relationship between the implementation of lean practices (hard and soft) and physical work environment and job characteristics, directly connected to operational outcome. In the long term, operational performance is influenced by employee behavior outcome and conditioned by physical work environment and job characteristics with the mediating effect of individual characteristics. (Paolo Gaiardelli, Barbara Resta, Stefano Dotti 2018)

According to HSE, Human factors covering three areas of influence on people at work:

  • The job
  • The individual
  • The organization

The Job

Includes the areas of nature, environment and workload, the design of screens and controls and the role of processes. The design should take into account ergonomic principles, taking into account human limitations and strengths. This includes assigning work to physical and mental strengths, but also to limiting people.

The Individual

Including his/her competence, skills, personality, attitude, and risk perception. Individual characteristics influence behavior in complex ways. Some characteristics such as personality are fixed; others such as skills and attitudes may be changed or enhanced.

The Organization

including work patterns, the culture of the workplace, resources, communications, leadership and so on. Such factors are often overlooked during the design of jobs but have a significant influence on individual and group behavior.

The two key reasons that Human Factors training is important:

What are Human Factors and Why they Matter?

Human Factors covers a range of issues including:

  • Perceptual
  • Physical and mental capabilities
  • The interaction and effects on individuals regarding the job and working environment
  • The influence of the interdependence of equipment and system design on human performance and finally
  • The organizational characteristics that influence functionality and performance behavior at work

Executives, managers, and project team members are humans. As all humans they are fallible too. They do and they will continue make errors irrespective of how experienced, committed and careful they are (Reason, 1990). The design and complexity of business systems increase the likelihood that errors will happen while trying to implement any of the Business Excellence Programs.

Reducing human error is a strategic priority for Bailout Human Synthesis. Integrating human factors science into the:

  • design of the systems of Business Excellence Programs
  • processes and
  • tasks

can play a significant role in reducing human error.

HF are comprised of many disciplines.

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Anthropometrics
  • Computer Science
  • Cognitive Science
  • Safety Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Educational Psychology and
  • Industrial Engineering.

HF is the science of understanding human performance within a given system.

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The History of Human Factors

It was around 1487 when Leonardo DiVinci began his research in anthropometrics. The Vitruvian Man is one of his most famous drawings that is said be described as one of the earliest sources that presenting guidelines for anthropometry. On the same time, he also started studying the flight of birds. He realized that humans are too heavy but not so strong to fly using wings simply attached to their arms. So he sketched a device that the aviator lies down on a plank, using two large, membranous wings using hand levers, foot pedals, and a system of pulleys.

In 1900s, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, both industrial engineers, were working on how to reduce human error in medicine. They were the ones that developed the concept of using call backs in communication into the operating rooms.

The origin of the term Human Factors is from aviation. Informally in literature in British Royal Air Force accident investigation reports in the 1940s, (ATSB Human Factors training material). In 1957 used formally to describe the modern practice (David Adams 2006).

Later in 1986 Admiral Donald Engen, former Administrator of the United States Federal Aviation Administration, sayed: “We spent over fifty years on the hardware, which is now pretty reliable. Now it’s time to work with people.”

This can be a declaration somehow that sets the foundation upon which the industries need for Human Factors can be assessed.

We retain lawyers for advices on Iegal problems. We hire architects for the building of a house. We consult physicians for the diagnosis of a medical problem. But whom when it comes to solving Human Factors problems?

Even though many lives may depend on the outcome, the approach is intuitive and, in many cases, perfunctory.  A background of many years of experience to an industry or thousands of flying hours may have little or no significance when looking for solutions to problems which only a thorough understanding of Human Factors can provide.

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Human Factors Influences

  • Tasks, workload and work standards.
  • Work environment and workplace design.
  • Culture and communication in the workplace.
  • Leadership and resources.
  • Policies, programs and procedures.
  • Employee ability and skills.
  • Employee attitude, personality and risk tolerance.

Tasks, workload and work standards.

According to HSE, workload is related to

  • competence (some tasks may require less processing in experienced personnel)
  • working hours/patterns (underload in nightshift control room operators) &
  • organizational change (where tasks or roles are changed) and staffing levels.

Workload may be higher in some industries/roles. This when there is an inadequate supply of skilled staff. A high (or perceived high) workload adversely affects safety. This also negatively affects job satisfaction. As a result, contributes to high turnover and staff shortages.

If you wish to determine whether you have sufficient staff, an assessment of workload may be required. You need to evaluate if capacity exists for additional tasks, or whether personnel can cope with emergencies, incidents or processes upsets.

Workload should also be assessed when new tasks, equipment, systems are introduced, as well as where changes are made to roles and responsibilities.

Work environment and workplace design.

The social features and physical conditions in which you perform your job is the setting of what we call work environment. These elements can impact wellbeing feelings, relationships in workplace, efficiency, collaboration and employee health.

The process of designing and organizing a workplace to optimize worker performance and safety is what the workplace design refers to. This is an important health and safety issue for workers. Both high-risk environments (such as on a ship) and low-risk workplaces (such as offices).

Culture and communication in the workplace.

Communication culture in the workplace can be defined as a way your organization engages with the people, shares information, drives conversations, and encourages employees’ share of voice.

Business communications are influenced by culture. This by increasing the understanding and relevance of cultural knowledge. Workplaces are increasingly more diverse. Nowadays business communication includes contact with people from different cultures and with companies in different countries.

Leadership and resources.

The resources that you are able to access throughout the course of your career are by-products of successful leadership. Resources that are and are not given to you. Mostly those rather earned as a result of hard work, respect from your peers and career coaches and sacrifices. But most important from failures that taught you lessons along the way.

Policies, programs and procedures.

  • Code of conduct
  • Recruitment policy
  • Internet and email policy
  • Mobile phone policy
  • Smoking policy
  • Drug and alcohol policy
  • Health and safety policy
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment policy

Employee ability and skills.

The skills that will equip the employees to carry out their role to the best of their ability are those we refer as Employability Skills. We could say that can be defined as the transferable skills needed by a person to make them ’employable’.

Employee attitude, personality and risk tolerance.

The willingness of a worker or a group to take safety risks is Risk tolerance. This is another thing that HF takes under consideration. The factors that influence how much risk is acceptable to individuals or groups.

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Human Factors Benefits

Human Factors examines people in their living and working situations, their relationship with machines, the procedures and the environment about them. Their relationships with other people included.

Professor Edwards proposed this definition of Human Factors: “Human Factors is concerned to optimize the relationship between people and their activities, by the systematic application of human sciences, integrated within the framework of systems engineering”.

The effectiveness of the system, which includes safety and efficiency, and the well-being of the individual are the main objectives.

Professor Edwards goes a step further. “Activities” indicates an interest in communication between individuals and in the behavior of individuals and groups.

Nowadays, this has been expanded. The interactions among individuals and groups and the organizations to which they belong, and to the interactions among the organizations that constitute the business ecosystem are included


  • Increasing awareness and identification of human risks.
  • Accurate identification of the underlying causes.
  • Adopting a non-punitive approach to error management.
  • Developing an organizational ‘learning culture’ that has the support and buy-in of its employees.
  • Improve of human performance.

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How to Start with Human Factors

It is not just the technical part of the Business Excellence Program that you have to focus. The goal is to increase the percentages of a successful implementation. This can only happen by creating an environment that adopts changes, and is encouraging workers to become part of them. Remember that is motivation, encouragement, and reward that drive the process. 

  • Explain employees the behaviors you want. Then reinforce their actions when you see them doing it right.
  • Work on ways that are more positive consequences for positive behavior than for wrong behavior.
  • Review and measure the positive behaviors.


Other actions to start with Human Factors

  • Consider the training programs of Bailout Human Synthesis
  • Essentials of Human Factors
  • Webinar Series
  • Experiential
  • Download the Free Guide

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Keys to Human Factors

Bailout Human Synthesis Human Factors method is taking under consideration the physical, cognitive, social, cultural and emotional factors that make up a complete solution towards the efficiency of the business excellence model of your organization.

The 12 most common causes of error within business excellence programs:

  • Lack of communication
  • Complacency
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Distraction
  • Lack of teamwork
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of resources
  • Pressure
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Stress
  • Lack of awareness
  • Norms.

Lack of communication

Lack of communication ultimately leads to low morale. Ineffective communication creates misunderstandings, conflict, missed opportunities, the dissemination of misinformation, and mistrust. Under these circumstances employees might just feel overall defeated.


As a definition we could say that complacent is someone that is happy with one’s self and unconcerned. A person is working in their office and not worried about the competition conditions outside. Uncritically satisfied for one’s achievements and onself, smug. Apathetic regarding to an apparent need or issue.

Lack of knowledge

Common synonyms of ignorant are unlearned, illiterate,  unlettered, and untutored. These words express the lack of knowledge. Ignorance on the other hand demonstrates a general condition that may additionally apply to lack of awareness of a particular thing or topic.


Distraction is the diverting of the attention of an individual or group from a desired area of focus. The result is the blocking or diminishing the reception of desired information. Distraction is caused by: Lack of ability to pay attention. Lack of interest in the object of attention, or the high intensity. Novelty and attractiveness on something different than the object of attention.

Distractions are coming from both external, and internal sources.
External distractions: Text messages, visual triggers, social interactions, music, and phone calls.
Internal distractions: Fatigue,  illness, hunger, worrying, and daydreaming. External and internal distractions interfere of focus.

Lack of Teamwork

Lack of understanding team standards. No willingness to commit or perform. Lack of clarity in the role, or even the reason that is part of the team. Sense of they do not have appropriate skills for the team or tasks allocated to them. Lack of confidence in their ability to contribute or succeed.


Lack of resources

A shortage, insufficiency, or absence for something desired or required. Something that is required but is in short supply or absent.


Lack of assertiveness

The factors that a person lacks assertiveness varies. There are various factors that this happens. Some of them: Low self-esteem, lack of fluidity when speaking, stutters, and feelings that others do not understand them or laugh at them. Fear that we will come across as ‘aggressive’ thoughts that we will hurt the other person’s feelings. Guilt about placing our needs first, and fear of another person’s anger or disapproval.


A definition of job stress can be: The harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the needs, the capabilities, and the resources of the worker. Job stress leads to poor health and even injury. These are the reasons that are setting the stage for illness, injury, and job failure.

Lack of awareness

Missing self-awareness, we fail to identify what we’re feeling and how it manifests itself in our daily actions. We fail to see the patterns to behaviors and thinking, both of ourself and others. As a result, we tend to experience more negative emotions. This because we don’t know how to better align our choices with what we want.


There are two types of rules. Whether explicit or implicit. These rules define our expectations of “appropriate” behaviors. Norms now are often so routine and embedded, on ways that staff are unaware of their specific behaviors and actions. Most of the times are these ‘unwritten rules’ that guide how people do things.

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Human Factors Resources and Inspiration.

Exploring the role of human factors in lean management

Human Factors as a Corporate Culture

Human factors: Managing human failures

Handbook Addendum Human Factors

Application of Human Factors in Reducing Human Error in Existing Offshore Facilities

Useful Statistical Methods for Human Factors Research in Software Engineering: A Discussion on Validation with Quantitative Data

Human Factors is an incredible way to ensure the success of your own business excellence program. The adoption of Human Factors continues to grow rapidly. However, with high demand and competition, founders, executives, managers and project teams need to understand the complex dynamics of the market and work to stand out by providing unique solutions and enormous value to customers, stakeholders and employees.

As you continue to explore Human Factors, remember to keep these goals at the core of your efforts.