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Human Error May Be to Blame - Page 1

Mar 2, 2007
By

George Spafford






With statistics proving over and over that human error should be of concern, it is a wonder more attention is not paid to managing it. In fact, there are a number of behaviors that can dramatically increase the odds of human error yet organizations fail to manage them.

All services contain some element of human interaction and thus some level of inherent variation. It may be introduced at any point during the life cycle from a wide range of vectors including development, operations, vendors, users, etc.

Moving past the inherent baseline that cannot be eliminated, additional levels of human error-related variation can be injected into challenged organizations. The following can all cause the level of human error in organizations to increase and thus put the attainment of goals and objectives at risk:


Increased Complexity – As the volume of systems, variety, integration and coupling increases, so to does the inherent complexity of the environment.

This causes a situation wherein a significant amount of detailed knowledge around services rendered is distributed and the impacts of proposed changes are largely unknown. As a result, the likelihood of a change negatively impacting confidentiality, integrity or availability increases.

Tight Deadlines – As the level of pressure to complete work increases there reaches a point where the emphasis may shift to “just get it done” wherein appropriate controls are bypassed in favor of completing work.

As a result, mistakes are made and not caught. Standards are not followed and variation increases. Fatigue and stress levels increase and so on.

Fatigue – Studies have clearly tied fatigue with increases in human error.

As people begin to perform without sufficient rest, the likelihood of errors increases. Expecting staff to perform without error despite working long hours is unrealistic.

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Task Switching – As the number of tasks increases, the likelihood of error increases.

A person split between a given number of tasks is likely to make mistakes due to shifts in concentration and delays between actions. It is a falsehood to think that a three tasks requiring a third of a full-time equivalent each can be handled by one person.

Insufficient Planning – Projects that invest the time and resources in planning prior to commencing work are far more likely to deliver on time and within budget. Failure to adequately plan may cause budget and schedule pressures to arise thus causing personnel to rush, work long hours, and bypass standard policies and procedures.

Insufficient Testing – When project schedules and/or budgets are at risk, one of the first areas to suffer is testing. As a result, the risk that human errors will not be caught prior to production increases.

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