Both Visual Literacy and Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) emphasize slowing down with purpose. 

As humans, about half of our personalities are wired more towards action, fast-paced, and getting things done, making it harder to slow down and get help. The other half of us are wired more toward needing additional information, being more methodical. This makes it harder for us to speed through tasks. For those of us who don’t naturally slow down, factors in addition to our personality wiring include production pressures, time pressures, peer pressure, rewards for output, customer demands, and a focus on outcomes.

Those are external drivers of moving too fast. The consequences can be serious, leading to near misses, minor and serious injuries, even fatalities. Rushing through jobs can lead to overlooking hazards, taking risks, working with faulty equipment, dispensing with personal protective equipment (PPE), short-cutting safety rules and procedures, and half-hearted attempts at facility housekeeping. 

There are also internal drivers, called personal tendencies, that can cause us to move too fast. Equilibria’s Personality Diversity Indicator identifies action-oriented, task-oriented, information-oriented and people-oriented individuals. Subsets of these personal tendencies are: doers, thinkers, socializers and relators. Doers may rush and take calculated risks. Or they may possess too little information or too little time to process information. Socializers may jump in to help others without thinking of potential risks. Relators may be over-reliant on others.

Visual Literacy and HOP assert that you cannot simply tell individuals to slow down, especially if they do not know what to do while slowing down. There must be a reason, a purpose. 

The notion of “slowing down” is often unpopular and resisted in organizations. Organizational leaders may preach using caution and stopping work that poses imminent risks. But this can be lip service, and actions on the factory floor or at a construction site may not match what management says it wants. This is especially true if safety and production are not on equal footing, getting equal respect, in an organization. 

Speed can be the enemy of safety, but the ally of production. Safety and production should not be an either/or proposition. The goal, every day, should be safe production. Safety and production intertwined, integrated.

Another perceived problem with slowing down in the eyes of many is the baggage the term carries. It’s easy to equate slowing down with stagnation, obstruction, delay, slackening, inactivity, downshifting, downtime, tying up or holding up work.

Persuading, influencing or coaching a organization to slow down can overcome resistance by emphasizing that we are slowing down with purpose. Slowing down cannot be an empty edict or a top-down command, ordered without a reason. Slowing down has a purpose, an objective. 

What is the justification?

Slowing down, according to both Visual Literacy and HOP, gives you an avenue to see more of the big picture, to see in greater detail, and to see with better analysis and interpretation. You gain from both a better understanding, or in the language of HOP, an expanded capacity to apply what you’ve learned. Applying the tools associated with Visual Literacy and HOP helps us to move from our fast brain to our slow brain. This improves our ability to draw meaning and improved interpretation of what we are seeing.

Many safety professionals struggle with “selling” or promoting the necessity to slow down. Visual Literacy and HOP both counsel that you don’t need to slow things down for hours. A minute, even 30 seconds, can be enough time to look at the environment in a larger, more complete way before taking on a specific task. This gives you brain time to interpret what it sees. 

One “baby step” to slowing down is to verbalize, to describe and communicate what it is you are seeing during job observations, audits and risk assessments. By verbalizing you naturally slow down your brain and make more objective observations. 

Other HOP error reduction tools for slowing it down: 1) Verbalize, Point and Touch©; 2) Self-check, self-monitor, reflect; 3) Receive verbal commands and repeat back; 4) Have a positive, questioning attitude – take time to ask questions; 5) Job site walk down; 6) Task review; and 7) Stop when unsure. Fisher Improvement Technologies (FIT) defines "unsure" by using the triggers of OOPPPPS© (Outside Of Procedures, Programs, Processes, Parameters, or the Situation as you expected it to be). There’s often a problem with this last point. Most organizations do not adequately define “unsure.” 

They leave it up to a fallible individual to determine what “unsure” means, and that person continually second-guesses themselves after-the-fact. Fisher Improvement Technologies (FIT) has this copyrighted definition of unsure: anything that falls outside of procedures, programs, processes, parameters, or the situation as you expected.

Visual Literacy slows down observations and mental processing by asking individuals: What do you see? What meaning do you attach or interpret to what you see? And what do you do about what you observe? This is called Seeing the Whole PICTURE®. Visual Literacy also slows down observations by using the elements of art. Look at an environment, a job, a piece of equipment, a work layout or process in terms of spacing, colors, lines (alignment or misalignment of equipment, tools, safeguards), shapes (is work organized neatly or loosely?), and texture (is there sufficient traction to prevent slips and falls?). 

Slowing down with purpose benefits you, your peers and your organization with many positives: better judgment, decision-making, hazard recognition, risk assessments, housekeeping, communication, audits and incident investigations to name a few. Don’t slow down because it seems to make obvious common sense. What seems reasonable may be no match for reaching or exceeding production quotas and ensuring profitability. Slow down with purpose to reap the positive consequences that in the end will improve productivity, quality, customer satisfaction and ensures that business is conducted safety – safe production.

For more information on HOP, advanced error reduction and to take a free survey to determine if human error is impacting your business, visit FIT Online at