September 19, 2014 at 05:45PM
"[T]he system at the blunt end is less tractable than at the sharp end, and ETTOing therefore plays a larger role." #readingToday

This difference is undoubtedly an artefact of the ways in which both accident analysis and risk assessment are carried out, the first starting with the accident that happened and the latter focusing on the possible unwanted outcomes. Classification schemes for 'human error' are almost exclusively directed at actions at the sharp end, i.e., at 'operators' rather than 'managers.' Yet from an ETTO point of view, people obviously make the same kinds of trade-offs in their work regardless of where they are. How they try to make ends meet may therefore differ less than the conditions that affect their performance. In both cases a shortage of time is clearly an important factor, cf. Table 7.1. In addition, work at the blunt end often suffers from a lack of information, simply because managers often are removed – in time and in space – from the actual operations. At the sharp end, activities usually have a clear beginning and end, information is concentrated, and the work environment includes specialised support (tools, training, etc.). At the blunt end, work is often scattered, information is dispersed, and the work environment is generic with little specialised support. Indeed, one might say that the system at the blunt end is less tractable than at the sharp end, and that ETTOing therefore plays a larger role. Since risk assessment should consider performance variability as well as performance failures, the efficiency-thoroughness trade-offs at the blunt end are at least as important as those at the sharp end.

The ETTO Principle, Erik Hollnagel