You hear it all the time. 

“We have a policy”. 

“We have management and quality control functions to prevent that.”

Shortly after, you hear words and acceptance statements that are really just modifiers. 

“Open bookings” in travel language is a laissez-faire or do as you please approach to booking travel. 

“Duty of care provider” is a term used by those that have no risk management qualifications or understanding of corporate governance. 

A lack of bad outcomes can reinforce this misplaced trust and confidence in poor practices.

Acceptance over time creates its own travel risk management threats

These groupthink approaches and undermining of actual safety and risk management standards is where deviance, that is a small divergence from their original path, becomes accepted and becomes the norm. 

Professor Diane Vaughan, from Columbia University’s Department of Sociology, defines the normalisation of deviance as the following.

“Social normalisation of deviance means that people within the organisation become so much accustomed to a deviant behaviour that they don’t consider it as deviant, 

despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety.” 

People grow more accustomed to the deviant behaviour the more it occurs. 

To people outside of the organisation, the activities seem deviant; 

however, people within the organisation do not recognise the deviance because it is seen as a normal occurrence. 

In hindsight, people within the organisation realise that their seemingly normal behaviour was deviant.

Professor Vaughan should know, she investigated the space shuttle Challenger accident that exploded shortly after take off. 

Dr Alan Waring also notes that “ The riskiest aspects of an organisation may lie not in the physical but in the self-reinforcing behaviour associated with power relations and culture in the organisation “ as part of his complete works contained within Managing Risk – Critical Issues for Survival and Success into the 21st Century, 1998. 

Travel managers are NOT risk managers. 

Travel management providers are NOT risk managers. 

Accepted and tolerated behaviour means you now accept what was once a warning of dangerous deviation by risk managers as a standard practice. 

That doesn’t make it acceptable.

It often makes it highly dangerous as a result. 

After 2 shuttle disasters at NASA key recommendations were:

Don’t use past success to redefine acceptable performance.

Require systems to be proven safe to operate to an acceptable risk level rather than the opposite.

Appoint people with opposing views or ask everyone to voice their opinion before the discussion.

Keep safety programs independent from those activities they evaluate.

These are also similar traits of High-Reliability Organisations. 

Our expert safety, security and risk management professionals at Intelligent Travel agree. 

Contact us to find out more about the science of travel risk management. 

www.intelligenttravel.com.au . 

Think for yourself, don’t follow the crowd into even more danger. 


Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts