Asking quality What if ...? questions

Posted 12/31/2015

Asking quality What if . . . ? questions

What if . . . ? questions can be very helpful for determining what can go wrong and for identifying potential changes. But, what What if . . . ? questions should be asked? I once saw a Safe Work Permit that suggested asking What if . . . ? questions but I didnít know what types of What if . . . ? questions to ask. Years later, while we were field-testing SafeThink, our cognitive-based safety strategy, someone suggested that we should include questions about what could go wrong. Someone else said, ďGordon, there would be way too many questions to ask.Ē Thatís when I came up with the idea of using a structured process to ask quality What if . . . ? questions. This structured approach uses PEMEO to focus the What if . . . ? questions. Further SafeThink field tests proved that this thinking strategy was very useful for asking quality questions about what could go wrong.

Each domain of PEMEO (e.g., people, equipment) provides a focus for asking questions that are most likely relevant to the work. Here are some examples of using PEMEO to ask What if . . . ? questions about what could go wrong.

what if table-1.png

After determining the possible immediate effects, determine how PEMEO is affected and how to prevent the situation from occurring or to reduce the possible consequences.

Many people had difficulties in identifying the types of concerns that could be addressed for the Organization domain. The book MetaThink identifies eleven types of organizational concerns including:

         Poor scheduling

         Failure to communicate priorities

         Shortage of staff

         Introduction of new hazards


Refer to MetaThink for a detailed explanation on asking quality What if . . . ? questions to determine what can go wrong and the potential effects on PEMEO. Refer to the book SafeThink for specific examples of asking What if . . . ? questions to determine what can go wrong that could create or lead to a hazardous situation.

Do you think that using PEMEO is a useful approach to ask What
if . . . ?
questions to identify what could go wrong? What strategy do you use to think through situations to predict what could go wrong?

Gordon Shand is President of HDC Human Development Consultants Ltd. He has 35 years of experience designing and developing educational and training programs that have excellent practical value and contribute to the customerís business success.