Category Archives: Tim Ayers

How far have we come and how far can this go?

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Let’s see how far we’ve come” is a title of a really catchy Matchbox Twenty song. Friday night my wife and I were very fortunate (thanks for getting the tickets Jenny!) to attend a concert in Kansas City featuring them and a long time favorite of mine, the Goo Goo Dolls. That song resonates with me and I can’t get it out of my head. Commercial nuclear power error reduction/event prevention programs have been around since the mid to late 90s and at this point in time can and should be considered matured. Benchmarking and formal Self Assessment processes are already in place, so what if at least a few of us went rogue and starting thinking outside of our industry? We all have room to grow and learn from each other, and I believe there is a lot to learn from the non-nuclear world that we may not have already.

There is a plan (see below). Well, Daniel Pink put a really cool Manga-style book (Johnny Bunko) out where lesson number one is, “There is no plan,” but I have chosen a different mentor for this part of the project – Stephen Covey taught us to “Begin with the end in mind.” I really want to learn about people. Being raised in an environment of nuclear workers for the past 20-plus years, I am ready to step out of that paradigm and listen to how people from all walks of life prevent every-day errors from turning into events.

The hypothesis

I believe we are all using similar error-reduction tools, whether we call them that or not, and I intend to find out through the use of podcasting if my assumption has merit. The nuclear world has a pretty standardized list of human performance tools that are available online through the Department of Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority (a group of three nuclear power plants (Browns Ferry, Watts Bar, and Sequoyah) owned and operated by the federal government, which means transparency and available online documents). I’ve seen people who train others (and do it very well) by using only these old human performance online resources. I think there is stagnation in this field and bringing in new ideas is going to be fun and hopefully eye-opening. Since the burnout potential exists in this function, most of the time is being spent training new people on things we’ve been training on for the last ten-plus years. I’ve also seen human performance tools turn up in an Illinois Arborist Association newsletter features article by Tim Ayers found here – the assumption here is that if they make as few errors as we do in a nuclear plant, than using them should be a great choice for Arborists (or in the true intent, everybody). This article actually stuck with me because of the nuclear human performance tools reference and how interesting it was to me that someone would choose to make it part of a different business community.

If nuclear has nailed the correct list of human performance tools (maybe it is already comprehensive enough), than why not share it with everyone? These tools translate into many environments, HRO or not.

Here is where you enter into the plan

Interviews!!! Do you have an interesting job? Are you a business owner or CEO? Are you a human performance practitioner or performance improvement trainer? Let’s have a discussion – either face-to-face or on Skype. People want to here your stories and ways you prevent errors from turning into an event for your company. What’s an event? It depends on what you do. Let’s compare an event to an error or (typically) a group of errors that is difficult to recover from, causing company reputation damage, cost implications, and most likely resulting in possible employee discipline.


Interviews for the podcast are already underway and I am loving it!!! Do you think it would be interesting to find out how a high-stakes casino dealer prevents errors? What happens if they make a mistake and what does their training to prevent errors look like? How does a 60-plus year old blind woman cook? What are error-challenges she is presented with on a daily basis? What are some lessons we can all learn from a well-known human performance and root-cause consultant who has been in this business since 1984? How about a jacuzzi-side relaxing conversation (i.e. pushing the reset button to avoid burn-out) with one of the nuclear industry’s best dynamic learning activity designers? I’m also really excited to be interviewing a Kansas City CEO, a pharmaceutical scientist from North Carolina and a Connecticut Hair Salon Owner/Trainer/Stylist. I can’t wait to find out recovery tips when a mistake happens in the middle of a hair cut.

I am currently lining up more and more interviews. Please become part of this quest. Send your interest to and I’ll be talking to you!

Podcast update

Are you thinking about make a performance improvement podcast? Let’s team up! The more human performance information out there the better! Guess what you need to do? Go to and my new buddy, Dave Jackson will hook you up with everything you need. I submitted three “finished” podcasts to him and he shared the honesty I needed to realize I would not be releasing the podcast to the public until a little later this month – more editing needed. Getting good technical and honest feedback on a product was well worth the consulting time we shared. I am having so much fun with this project, and I’m inviting you on the journey.

Let’s see how far this can go…