Every December 24th, this jolly ole elf embarks on one more global initiative.  We know this to be true because each year since 1955, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD and its predecessor the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado have tracked his operation–www.noradsanta.org.

We are happy to report that as of this writing, Santa has returned to the North Pole with all his reindeer healthy having delivered almost 7.3 billion gifts.  Another 364 days of operational planning has paid off handsomely.

So how does this bearded (non-millennial) man in a red suite and his supporting elf ecosystem routinely accomplish this logistical nightmare?  Could it be that Santa is the CEO of a High Reliability Organization (HRO)?

Through this blog and others including our book Implementing a Culture of Safety: A Roadmap for Performance Based Compliance, the author has extensively written on the High Reliability Management (HRM).  Interested readers are invited to search these and other works on the subject.

Briefly, an HRO focuses on operations from the top down, expects failure and puts in place resilient processes and procedures designed to recover quickly.  Moreover, Human Factors play a major role in Santa’s HRO operation.

For example, human elves must care for the reindeer full time, not just the night of the flight.  The sled must meet certain regulatory and safety compliance requirements.  Packages must be wrapped, and hand delivered efficiently without damage.  Finally, route planning and coordination with various airspace control entities is critical to assure an incident free transit.

Concluding Thoughts

This ‘tongue and cheek’ mythical case study does serve a point.  Large, global, complex initiatives involving a number of constituent parties including customers require HRM.  Much is said about Operational Excellence (OE) these days and we make the case herein that without HRM, OE is also an unattainable myth.

We are told on good authority that after a short rest, the Santa OE Ecosystem will start planning for the December 24, 2019 transit.  Children believe in Santa Claus and marvel at all he can accomplish in one night.  Perhaps those of us who are older can also learn new lessons from this jolly ole elf.

How Do You Assure your Global Initiatives Remain Incident Free?