Breaking bad? In search of a (softer) systems view of security ergonomics

Fischbacher-Smith, D. (2016) Breaking bad? In search of a (softer) systems view of security ergonomics. Security Journal, 29(1), pp. 5-22. (doi: 10.1057/sj.2015.41)

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A series of terrorist attacks in late 2014 and early 2015 prompted the head of the UK’s Security Service to comment on the need to improve the information flows available to the service in order to deal with the emerging task demands that it faces. The comments highlighted the tensions that have been created in the post-Snowden revelations around domestic surveillance and intelligence gathering and these concerns span both public and private sector organisations. The intervention by the head of MI5 raises a series of questions about the design of security organisations and their function, and does so within a wider systems context, where changes in the environment require corresponding changes in the core processes and functions of the organisation. This is a central domain of security ergonomics and the manner in which an organisation can frame its response to an ever more complex threat matrix is the main purpose of this article. The question becomes one of how one might ‘design’ such a high performing organisation and especially one that can satisfy the zero-failure mandate that is often required of the security function. The argument presented here is that those organisations that see security as a ‘bolt-on’ function to existing organisational activities will invariably fail to capture the wider strategic dynamics of threat-response interactions and, more significantly, the role that other organisational activities can play in shaping that process. This article approaches the question from the perspective of two related bodies of research – Soft Systems Methodology and Ergonomics/Human Factors.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fischbacher-Smith, Professor Denis
Authors: Fischbacher-Smith, D.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Security Journal
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Online):1743-4645
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
First Published:First published in Security Journal 29:5-22
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
479842Cargo Screening FerretDenis Fischbacher-SmithEngineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/G004307/1BUS - MANAGEMENT