Getting the Balance Right in Tackling Risk

One of the core principles in SPoR is balance. We see this visualised in the SPoR risk maturity model. See Figure 1. Risk Maturity.

Figure 1. Risk Maturity.


This simple semiotic makes clear all of the ‘steps’ that need to be considered in tackling risk. Whilst we tend to start risk assessment in the Workspace (Physical/Material), we need to also consider what is happening in Headspace (Psychological) and Groupspace (Cultural). Indeed, the interaction between Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace is an ever-moving dialectic.

You can see an animation of how WS, HS, GS works here:

You can also see how the WS, HS, GS models is applied in practice here:

In all SPoR semiotics, you will observe this constant dialectic between three competing elements. This is often captured in the use of a hyphen between two words (eg. Following-leading, i-thou) or by a centre between 3 elements. All of the books in SPoR capture this on each cover (

Risk in an ever-moving feast, a ‘wicked problem’ that is essential to fallibility and learning.

There is no ‘fixing’, ‘elimination’ or absolute ‘control’ for risk.

Risk is NOT the enemy. Humans are not the enemy of safety (;

There is no learning without risk.

This is why the nonsense of zero is anti-learning.

The key in tackling risk with balance is finding the tensions between Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace.

In the risk and safety industry the current focus is predominantly on Workspace (systems to control physical hazards). Indeed, even when Safety tries to define culture, it draws it back into Workspace with the silly definition ‘what we do around here’. This demonstrates the fixation of the industry on measurement, engineering and behaviourism.

If you are looking for balance in tackling risk, you won’t find it in traditional safety ( ).

Striking a balance is not easy in any activity but such tension is a necessary need in any attempt to avoid extremes, binary dogma and hegemony. Such a dynamic also help resist the temptations to abuse power ( ).

What does this mean in practice?

In SPoR, we provide tools to help strike a balance in tackling risk. The methods of SPoR help acknowledge that risk is present in Workspace, Headspace and Groupspace. SPoR tools are doable, positive, practical, humanising and effective, they work ( and provide balance.

Risk Maturity Animated from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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