Barriers to Preventive Action

Prevention is clearly superior to dealing with the consequences of a catastrophic incident. But catastrophes do happen. It rarely takes long to uncover the two or three preventive actions that would have closed the path of catastrophe and kept people safe.

In our research project we identified the three most important barriers to preventive action in organizations. The failure to perceive risk is by far the most powerful barrier. Leadership failure and production pressure also seriously impede preventive action.

Barriers to Preventive Action

  • Failure to perceive risk. Preventive action requires pessimistic imagination. You must be able to identify potential risks before you can do anything to prevent their occurrence.
  • Leadership failure. A lack of “sincere support” from senior leaders makes it difficult for people to take action to manage risk. Flawed management systems can also discourage preventive action.
  • Production pressure. Preventive action is perceived to both delay implementation and increase costs. This is not correct except in the very short term but excessive production pressure pushes people into short term thinking and discourages preventive action.

We discuss the barriers to preventive action more thoroughly in the Research Report: Preventing Catastrophe in Organizations. Download Here.