From Convergence Training – August 4, 2019

Interview (audio only) with Todd Conklin by Jeff Dalto

One of the most influential, most innovative, and most controversial thinkers in occupational safety and health these days is Dr. Todd Conklin, who’s famous for his human and organizational performance (HOP) approach to safety matters.

It’s likely you’re familiar with Dr. Conklin and don’t need me to explain to you who he is. However, if the name IS new to you, you might want to check out his Pre-Accident Investigation podcast series, or his HOP Hub website, or his books on pre-accident investigations, learning more by asking better questionspreventing workplace fatalities, or the 5 principles of human performance, which is what our discussion below will focus on.

Todd was nice enough to stop by for a chat with us and explain the 5 principles of HOP and some other HOPpy stuff, and we can’t thank him enough. We’ve included an audio recording of the discussion below and hope you enjoy it.

*** Note the audio starts out a bit rough but then improves ***

Note: If you’re the type who’d rather read than listen to an audio, the transcript is available – here.

Convergence Training:

Hello, this is Jeff Dalto of Convergence Training and Vector Solutions. And we have a special guest on our webcast series here, this is Dr. Todd Conklin. Todd is a very well-known human and organizational performance consultant, and he’s here to talk to us about HOP and five principles of HOP.

Todd, how are you doing today?  Thanks for coming in.

Dr. Todd Conklin:

I’m good. How are you?

Convergence Training:

I’m good. It’s exciting to talk to you. I appreciate it.

Dr. Todd Conklin:

I know it was almost impossible. We did the unthinkable, the unseeable, the unknowable, we broke the technology.

The Todd Conklin & HOP Origin Story

Convergence Training:

Well, you know, we haven’t finished yet, so we’ll see. But it’s looking good so far.

And I wonder–you’re here to talk to us about HOP and these five principles of HOP, which we’re excited to hear about. But I wonder for people who maybe aren’t familiar with you or with HOP, if you could just kind of start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a HOP consultant.

Dr. Todd Conklin:

So I spent 27 years working at Los Alamos National Laboratory. And I worked in, really, the human performance side of the house, pretty much all 27 of those years. And around..man, I was trying to figure out the time of this…probably around 2000, there was a push in the nuclear community through an organization called INPO (the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations), to start a program that looked at human and organizational performance effectiveness (I think there’s an S on it, too, I can’t remember). But we started looking, at the time, at the place and at the interface where work meets worker.

So we did a pretty good job in reliability terms in understanding human behavior. And we had a crap-load of behavioral observation programs and ways we could manage workers individually. But individual interventions are good. The problem is it means you’re managing really technical, very significant, highly critical facilities, one worker at a time. And that’s a little tedious and not terribly impactful.

Then we got into process safety, and started looking at design and human factors. And we focused a lot on the system, and how we could make the system more reliable. And that was really valuable too. We fixed a lot of things that were kind of wonky and potentially risky, that had high failure modalities to it.

It was around 2000, that we started looking not at the individual worker and worker behavior, or not at the system and human factors, we started looking at the coupling between the worker and the system. And that’s when we started looking more collectively, or maybe systemically, at how work was happening. And in the early days, there weren’t a lot of people to go to. James Reason had been doing it probably since about, well, probably the early-90s. But he just put a book out on organizational failure in the late-90s. And that sort of lit high-critical, high risk-work on fire. And gave us something new to look at.

And that’s kind of the origin story of where we came from.

So I was working industrial organizational, that’s what my PhD’s in. And so it was a kind of a good fit for me. It was a place to use classic organizational development skills, and understand critical high-risk operations, and try to find places to make that fit in in between there. It was a pretty successful journey. It was really fun. I had no idea it would end up being a career. As many of the people who listen to you will tell you, it started out as a special project. And special projects can either be good or bad. Lots of times they’re bad. This one ended up being pretty neat. And it certainly had a future to it. And that kind of started our trail. And it was fun. We had a really good time.

*** *** *** *** ***

For the rest of the transcript please go – here.

# # #


  1. This is sensible and some of us, including Rummler and Brethower, have been doing it for years. Good article.

    Roger Kaufman, Ph.D., CPT, ABPP, Professor Emeritus, Florida State University,

    Fellow, American Psychological Association, Fellow, American Educational Research Association.

    1123 Lasswade Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32312;

    Email: roger@megaplanning.com or rkaufman@nettally.com; or rkaufman@fsu.edu.

    Phone: 850-386-6621 or 850-386-6874; FAX: 850 422-2722.

    I am honored that The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) has created the Roger Kaufman Award for the continual achievement of measurable positive societal impact by an individual or organization”.

    Please see any of my 41 books on Amazon.com


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