The Technical Communicator’s Role in Facilitating High Reliability Organizations

Judy Glick-Smith


High Reliability Organizations (HROs) are organizations that are able to perform at maximum capacity in situations and environments where there is extreme potential for error and disaster. Examples of HROs are the fire service, the police, the military, hospital emergency rooms, and air traffic control systems. Most business organizations, with a few exceptions, do not have the same level of potential for error and disaster. However, in recent years, we have witnessed negative corporate transformation at a magnitude that actually has resulted in disaster in the form of a tanked economy and a rapidly shrinking middle class.

There is hope, however. It comes in the form of a model extracted from existing HROs. This model is driven by setting expectations, communicating those expectations, setting up systems that support the work of contributing individuals, and fostering a culture of mindful decision-making and critical thinking.

Once again, technical communicators find themselves in a position to be change agents in our organizations. This presentation discusses the ways that technical communicators can contribute to positive organizational transformation through our core competencies in message development and information design and organization; our service-orientation; and our ability to attend to detail while retaining our 40,000-foot vision.

Presenter Biography

Judith (“Judy”) L. Glick-Smith is president of MentorFactor, Inc. She has been a technical communicator, entrepreneur, and business consultant since 1983. MentorFactor focuses on organizational development consulting, technical communication services, executive and life coaching, change management, conflict management, and transformative strategic planning for both organizations and individuals. She is also an adjunct professor in the department of communication at Kennesaw State University.

Judy has a PhD in transformative studies with a concentration in integral studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her dissertation research involved an investigation of decision making in the fire service. She has a Master’s of Science in conflict management from Kennesaw State University and a BBA in accounting with a minor in information systems from Georgia State University.

Judy is a Fellow and Past President of STC. She is STC’s 2006 recipient of the President’s Award. She currently serves as a member of the CAC’s Outreach Team.