How the Five Principles of High Reliability Organizations Align with the Five Truths of Special Operations


Biggs A, Jewell J, Littlejohn LF 23(2). 94 (Journal Article)

Special Operations medicine must provide highly reliable healthcare under intense and sometimes dangerous circumstances. In turn, it is important to understand the principles inherent to building a High Reliability Organization (HRO). These principles include (1) sensitivity to operations; (2) preoccupation with failure; (3) reluctance to simplify; (4) resilience; and (5) deference to expertise. Understanding them is crucial to turning good ideas into sound practical benefit in operational medicine. A prime teaching opportunity involves an interesting coincidence that occurred during the emergence of HROs. Specifically, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) adopted five Special Operations Forces (SOF) Truths that contribute to success in Special Operations, including (1) humans are more important than hardware; (2) quality is better than quantity; (3) SOF cannot be mass produced; (4) competent SOF cannot be created after emergencies occur; and (5) most Special Operations require non-SOF support. These five Truths have more in common with the five HRO principles than merely quantity. They describe the same underlying ideas with a key focus on human performance in high-risk activities. As such, when presented alongside the five HRO principles, there is an opportunity to improve the overall health and performance of SOF personnel by integrating these principles across the range of Special Operations medicine from point of injury care to garrison human performance initiatives. The following discussion describes in greater detail the five HRO principles, the five SOF Truths, and how these similar ideas emerged as more than just a useful coincidence in illustrating the key concepts to produce high performance.

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