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Recap: Bob’s Guide to Operational Learning with Bob Edwards

By Tamara Parris | Reviewed by Gary WongCheckmark
Published: June 21, 2023 | Last updated: June 21, 2023 08:13:03
Key Takeaways

Recap of our discussion with Bob Edwards on his book Bob’s Guide to Operational Learning with our Meet the Author community members.

Every month, members of the Safeopedia community come together for an online member's book club to discuss important workplace health and safety topics, share their insights and thoughts, and support each other.

In our most recent session, we invited our member and author Bob Edwards on his book Bob’s Guide to Operational Learning: How to Think Like a Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) Coach

If you missed it, here's a recap of the session.


Meet the Author

Bob Edwards is a Human & Organizational Performance Advocate and practitioner. His experience includes 6 years in the military, over 10 years as a design engineer, an owner of a design firm, a leader for maintenance and technical support teams and he has worked as a safety leader for the past 8 years.

Bob takes his life work experiences and combines them with the Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) philosophies to help organizations learn how to better respond to failure and how to use HOP Learning Teams to gain better operational intelligence and to develop more effective, thorough and sustainable solutions to tough operational problems.

Bob has led well over 200 Learning Teams for safety, quality, legal and operational events and has worked closely with Todd Conklin to develop a process to help facilitate Learning Teams. Bob has a BS degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Technological University and MS degree in Advanced Safety Engineering Management from the University of Alabama Birmingham. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn or at his website:

Meet the Book

Bob’s Guide to Operational Learning: How to Think Like a Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) Coach is a book for all of you. For all of us. Its for the people working hard each day to apply HOP principles in our organizations and in our lives.


Bob and Andrea spent 10+ years on their HOP journey and struggled through the challenge of turning theory into action. They wrote this book to share what they had learned about Operational Learning, Learning Teams and Industrial Empathy. They hope it is simple, practical, useful, real, raw and inspiring. Bob hopes you take everything you can from it, but don’t feel constrained by it. He hopes you build on what they have created, improve on what they have shared, and pass on your ideas to others.

The Big Picture: Our Discussion Topics

In our conversation today, the discussion focused on Bob's book titled "Bob's Guide to Operational Learning: How to Think Like a Human and Organizational Performance Hockey Coach."

Bob explained that the book was a collaborative effort with Andrea Baker and was aimed at helping people on their journey towards operational learning.

The concept of Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) was discussed, which combines behavior psychology, systems thinking, and complexity science. Bob shared his personal transformation from a traditional safety approach to embracing HOP principles.

The principles discussed were: people make mistakes, blame doesn't fix problems, context drives behavior, learning is vital, and leaders' response matters. The importance of creating a safe and open dialogue in the workplace, especially at the middle management and supervisor levels, was highlighted for effective operational learning. The concept of the black line and the blue line, representing the planned process and the actual process, was mentioned in relation to operational learning.

At the end of our discussion, Bob asked our members to to share their key takeaways.

They shared:

  1. "We don't know how to predict everything"; it's important to acknowledge this and be prepared to react and adapt.
  2. Metrics without context are dangerous. It's crucial to understand the context behind the numbers and not rely solely on metrics.
  3. We need time to learn and explore before jumping into problem-solving. Deep operational learning and understanding the problem should be the first steps.
  4. Identifying and learning from conversations can help in identifying and understanding problems. Problems often emerge through discussions and interactions.

The Nitty Gritty: Contributions from Our Community Members

Meet the Author sessions are collaborative discussions. While our guest author and community co-host Gary Wong get the conversation going, our community members always share their insights, experiences, and perspectives.

Here are some of their contributions.

Tom Osorio - I guess when we're talking about safety, particularly high reliability and major accident hazards, we tend to talk about, you know, follow the procedure, discipline, rigor, etc., etc., etc., very, very constrained. And it's kind of reducing the people to a machine virtually is a learning culture, which is where you want people who are inquisitive and experiment those sorts of aspects, because I think there is a tension between sort of creative, intelligent, interested people can feel very constrained by the discipline.

Tom asks; I just wondered whether you could talk a bit about how you manage that tension between learning and experimentation, the kind of the naughty child, the naughty boy in the corner of the room who takes everything apart versus the person who does what they're supposed to do with the toys. It never breaks anything. It's it's that tension, I think, is quite I think we find very difficult in the safety community. Common behaviors.

Rosa Carrillo - I was just wondering, when you say things haven't changed, why haven't things gotten better? Doesn't that depend on what you're measuring Or what you consider is getting better? Because it seems to me that one of the things that HOP does is it changes the the atmosphere, the psychological safety, the way people are communicating. And to me It's very hard to measure those things and the benefita that's producing. So could you talk To that a little bit? Because because I think measure metrics are holding everybody hostage.

Aaron Johnson - to your your comment earlier about designing perfect safe work environments, really resonated with that same kind of concept. But we hate to think about discovery, you know, when it comes to safety... so we think about black line, blue line, red line, and how do you do safety just enough. And then what? That makes me really uncomfortable when you think about what is risk, great risk is to get us the farthest away from that red line. And so we tend to overengineered things. And we're back to the tension conversation that we had earlier about how do you do this in this space when you're thinking about thinking, as you mentioned, the story about the power or knowing that something wasn't right.

Watch the Session

Join Us for the Next One

On July 21, 2023, we will be welcoming another great Author!

In our upcoming session we will have author's Brent Sutton and Jeff Lyth sharing about 4Ds for HOP and Learning Teams

Click here to register and join the conversation!


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Written by Tamara Parris

Profile Picture of Tamara Parris

Tamara Parris is the VP of Community and Business Development at Safeopedia, and owner of EHS Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Her passion is working with other EHS Professionals to collaborate in thought leadership, networking and connecting our industry peers to resources that will increase profitability and safety practices within their workplaces. Tamara has been in the Health and Safety field for over 20 years, her industry experiences include the Construction sector, CCTV and Security, and Commercial Retail industries.

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