The Ten HRS goals are drawn from the numerous shared characteristics upon which all Highly Reliable Organisations (HROs), such as nuclear power plants and flight control operation centres, are based. The following HRO principles can be adapted to the secondary school environment in order to improve their performance (adapted from Stringfield, 1998):

1. Failure is disastrous

Unusually high organisational reliability evolves under a particular circumstance. HROs evolve when both the larger society and the professionals involved in the working of the organisation come to believe that failure of the organisation to achieve its key goals would be disastrous. For example, one badly cascading error in the 40-year life of an otherwise superbly performing nuclear power station is simply not acceptable, either for the surrounding community or the professionals working within.

2. Clear goals

Organisational reliability requires a clear and finite set of goals, shared at all organisational levels. No organisation does huge numbers of things with very high reliability. Reliability requires priority setting and focus.

3. Consistent best practice

Regularly repeated tasks that are effective become Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is in part to make "best practice" universal, but also to allow a rich web of peer observation and communication.

4. Identifying flaws in procedures and making changes

Organisations have found that following any practice without a search for continuous improvement leads to ossification, stagnation, and all to often, very expensive "by the book" mistakes. Therefore, highly reliable organisations actively sustain initiatives that encourage all concerned to identify flaws in standard operating procedures, and honours the flaw finders.

5. Recruitment, training and retraining

Active, extensive recruiting of new staff at all levels and constant, targeted training and retraining.

6. Rigorous performance evaluation - Mutual monitoring of staff

In HROs, monitoring is necessarily mutual, without counterproductive loss of overall professional autonomy and confidence. This achievement is possible because organisational goals are clearly and widely shared, and because experience has taught all concerned that reliable success evolves through frank, protected, multi-way performance feedback.

7. Data-richness

In order to sustain multi-level awareness, HROs build large databases. Small failures in key systems can be monitored closely using these databases and dealt with before they can cascade into major problems.

8. Short-term efficiency takes a back seat to very high reliability

All organisations can seek increased efficiencies; however, when the requirement becomes continuously high reliability, there are types of deep cuts that can not be absorbed, and that the public will not tolerate. During a deep economic recession, taxpayers typically tolerate public parks being mowed less often; but the same public demands that a full compliment fire stations be maintained and that a safe level of staffing be maintained at nuclear power plants.

9. Hierarchically structured management, but collegial decision-making

The extension of formal, logical decision making analysis as far as extant knowledge allows.

10. Equipment and environment kept to high standard

Premises maintained at a high standard and key equipment is kept in good working order.