Article

Human behaviour: the final frontier in efficiency and operational performance management


by Melvin Mathews - published on 23 November 2020 74

This article was already published on Mel´s Musing blog on Aug 30th 2020
(see link at the end of the article)
(Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash)


In recent decades, every industry has tested different strategies and technologies to maximize operational efficiency. Mechanical and software-based solutions have pushed the boundaries of human possibility by making equipment, machinery, and engines not only tremendously efficient but also extremely safe.

The arrival of machine learning and artificial intelligence has taken efficiency to a whole new level. Software platforms can now suggest maintenance routines, recommend spare-part changes, and even predict breakdowns of machinery. Some argue that we have unlocked most of technology’s possibilities when it comes to machinery efficiency and performance. However, data shows that machines are rarely operated within their efficient zones or optimum performance ranges.

Having advanced machinery is no doubt important to any operation, but only when paired with well-trained and skilled personnel can operation be optimized at the systemic level, especially when several systems are running simultaneously. In other words, having the most sophisticated and advanced machinery is virtually useless, unless it is operated efficiently by competent operators. This is where monitoring, benchmarking, and improving human behaviour comes in, perhaps as the final frontier to further push the boundaries of performance.

Crew behaviour plays a significant part in any operations chain and includes perception, situational awareness, planning, decision making, execution, reporting, improvisation, and improvement. Of course, lack of training, competence, skill, and experience naturally leads to lower operational performance, higher risk, and uncertain safety. However, other underlying factors, such as attitude, character, motivation, and emotions, also impact performance.

A “good day” for a given worker can lead to overconfidence, more risk-taking, and safety issues. A “bad day” can lead to a loss of motivation, only completing the bare minimum, and a lack of focus on efficiency or alertness towards risks. Companies are now waking up to the impacts of human behaviour on operations. In the past, due to absence of relevant data, it was nearly impossible to monitor human behaviour continuously, especially in remote work environments, but this difficulty has been significantly reduced in recent years.

While companies have clear expectations for their employees, they have limited control over human behaviour and decision-making, especially when working remotely. It is now possible to use various data sources to better understand and improve human work behaviour. There are several ways of soliciting this higher behavioural performance, including incentives, motivation, inspiration, gaming, rewards, and gain sharing.

In a world where companies easily reach a level playing field through the power of machinery and technology, understanding human behaviour and finding ways to improve it will give them a much-needed competitive advantage.


Let me know your thoughts.
Editor's note:
Opinion pieces reflect the personal opinion of individual authors. They do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about a prevailing opinion in the respective editorial department. Opinion pieces might be deliberately formulated in a pronounced or even explicit tone and may contain biased arguments. They might be intended to polarise and stimulate discussion. In this, they deliberately differ from the factual articles you typically find on this platform, written to present facts and opinions in as balanced a manner as possible.
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