Finding Balance in SPoR

We know that zero is extremist and that it holds no compromise with anything other than zero. The anathema to Zero is 1.

I was offered an invitation the other day by an engineer to be lectured on balance in risk assessment. Yet, what safety engineers call ‘balance’ is NOT balance.

There are at least three dimensions to risk assessment. In SPoR, we call them Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace ( We represent these three by the metaphor of steps and call this the Risk Maturity Matrix (See Figure 1. Risk Maturity Matrix).

Figure 1. Risk Maturity Matrix

The Risk Maturity Matrix is a semiotic metaphor for how maturity in risk evolvers over time and complexity. Clearly the most challenging risk assessments are those that deal with culture risk. The model Risk Maturity is not static but rather in animated form shows how we move up and down each step constantly (

Such a model does NOT dissolve the importance of foundational steps but requests balance with the other steps. Unfortunately, most organisations spend their time marching up and down on the calculative/systems step. This is evidenced recently by Safe Work Australia in its safety week material with no mention of listening, learning, helping, care, ethics or personhood. The 100% focus of safe Work Australia is engineering and Workspace. Even the focus on psychosocial ‘hazards’ is in the same space. If your only focus is on measurables, controls, hazards and regulation, there is no balance.

In order to be ‘balanced in risk assessment’ one needs to know how to traverse all three levels of risk with competence and expertise.

Whilst the bottom 5 steps represent the typical measurement focused engineering approach to risk, the top 5 steps (and more complex steps) do not. Headspace and Groupspace are NOT measurable indeed, the safety curriculum offers no education or learning at these levels.

So, when a safety engineer offers balance, it is only within Workspace ie. within the physical measurable worldview. This is NOT balance.

Unless one is able to undertake risk assessment at 33% Workspace, 33% Headspace and 33% Groupspace, there is no balance.

To be balanced in risk assessment one needs knowledge, skills and expertise in being able to traverse all levels of risk. How does one get such expertise and skills without a curriculum and worldview that supports it?

When the best Safety can do on culture is ‘what we do around here’ we know that Safety has no skills or expertise to traverse the cultural domain or understand its risks. Indeed, it doesn’t even know where to start. It would rather just not talk about it! Indeed, when Safety is silent on many of the fundamentals in culture ( we know that all it can do is more systems, more paperwork, more measurable performance, rinse and repeat. This is NOT balance. Audits are not balance.

Of you want to understand a sense of balance and how to move up into the Headspace and Groupspace steps you can undertake two free introductory courses in SPoR here:

· Free SPoR Intro


· Free Due Diligence


It is here where one can move beyond the red steps and develop risk maturity and a sense of balance in risk.


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