While reading this little book (slim pocket sized 155 pages) it struck me how there are several parallels to ‘new view’ safety thinking in here. In fact, one might consider it a predecessor to Dekker’s Safety Anarchist, focused on the subject of quality.

Just a number of similarities to Resilience Engineering, Safety-II or Safety Differently (I am not going to bother about the fine differences between these) and this book:

  • trusting people (customers, workers) and seeing people as part of the solution rather than the problem
  • truly empowering and involving people
  • embracing variability
  • understanding why things go right
  • focus on work-as-done (and a critique of work-as-imagined and procedures)
  • stressing the need for a systems approach
  • addressing problems with bureaucracy, managing by metrics, reductionism and hierarchical structures, and touching on possible problems with standards and quality management systems (which Seddon later would flesh out in his writing about ISO 9000 and LEAN).

Along the way, we also pass concepts as bounded rationality and psychological safety (although not mentioned as such).

The one moment where there appears to be some divergence is when Seddon starts to talk about the need to change behaviour (and drags in culture), although he makes up for this by paying attention to circumstances, the system, and interdependencies.

All in all a refreshing read, even though over a quarter of a century has passed since it first was published!


Seddon, J. (1992) I Want You to Cheat. The Unreasonable Guide to Service and Quality in Organisations. Buckingham: Vanguard Press.