Acceptance by deception…what an absolutely fantastic phrase. As much as I try to read everything I can about error and screwups, it is amazing to me I had not run across it until two days ago. I pulled up the Squad Operators handbook for the rescue organization I am working with that was written by an old friend, John Burruss. In the introduction is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Wilbur, a lieutenant for the FDNY in Firehouse magazine. It describes a emergency vehicle crash, and its root causes. He says “It is bad enough that many apparatus operators take risks when driving and many of
those risks are taken unnecessarily. But in this case the operator had little or no training at all with which to take these risks and with nothing in writing what ever occurred as far as training really did not occur in the eyes of the court. For if it is not in writing, it simply did not happen in the eyes of the law. So not only do we have a young man volunteering his time that has ruined his life, we have fellow firefighters and officers that led the driver to this fate.
This is where the acceptance by deception comes into play.”
In essence, my definition would be those practices that you put into place in your organization, that you know are sub-optimal (or even dangerous) and yet you find reasons to rationalize to yourself and others that “it’ll be fine, stop whining”. This applies to training (“continuing ed is a waste of time, can’t we just say that you did it?”), release of drivers, medics, and hospital personnel (“look we need people working, some training and experience is better than none, or having no one working that shift, isn’t it?”), analysis of error (“sh*t happens, its a one-off”), corrective action (“look we don’t need to do all that, we don’t have the funds, just try harder next time”), etc., etc.
It’s possible that acceptance by deception may be the single greatest cause of mediocre performance, and error that exists.
Think about it.