Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘task taxonomies

Article #13, April 10, 2005

 “How basic are task taxonomies in Human Factors?”

The follow up question is: how can we conceive practical human error taxonomies before working out taxonomies for the tasks required in a system, its processes or steps in a method? 

If the type of skills required by an operator to perform a set of tasks are not well defined and studied it might not be that useful to apply a complex error taxonomy that does not delineate the applicable domain. For example, how can we allocate functions to either operators or machines or how can we decided who is better at performing a set of tasks an automated machine or a trained operator if we fail or cannot classify the human capabilities and limitations versus the potential capabilities and limitations of the machine we intend to design?

There is a relationship between task taxonomy and task analysis.  Originally, task analysis methods were conceived to break down a job into work modules and then to elemental tasks that standard time measurements could be applied to in order to maximize profit on human efforts. The purpose of task analysis is to originate an ordered list of all the task that people will do in a system with details on information requirements, task times, operator actions, environmental conditions, evaluations, and decisions that must be made.

Consequently, a task analysis should produce estimates of time and effort required to perform tasks, determination of staffing, skills, and training requirements, pinpointing the necessary interfaces between operators and the system, and to provide inputs to reviews and specifications.  This process enables detailed examination in the evaluation of human functions in terms of abilities, skills, knowledge, and attitudes required for performance of any function from inputs to outputs.  When profits are the bottom line you should also have in mind that reducing errors is a major criterion beside time saved and direct costs.

It seems implicit when allocating standard times that the appropriate conditions of work are explicitly defined, the age and gender of the worker are acknowledged, the duration and frequency of rest breaks accounted for, the eventuality that overtime work is considered and ability to cope with boredom and repetitive tasks because all these variables would affect the standard times for accomplishing a job efficiently with minimum errors for the long haul.

If you were to decide between the two alternatives: either correcting standard times to finish a task based on experiments accounting for the above factors that might affect efficiency, safety and health of workers, or allocating a separate expense fund based on actuarial studies for rate of illnesses, rate of errors, hospitalization cost and overturn among workers if the uncorrected standard times are applied, then which choice would you definitely retain?

A task analysis of a system allow estimate of the likelihood of a certain error (i.e., the product of frequency and the probability of occurrence of a certain error) and how often the error will occur for a duration, thus enabling a numerical estimate for the acceptability level and need for a redesign.

The consequences for lack of a task analysis combined by practical error taxonomies in designing a system are not that futile on operators, end users and the whole performance of systems since time is of the essence for delivering a functional product. 

The fact that current technology can automate the travel of airplanes from take off, to cruising and to landing without the need of a pilot does not guarantee safety or acceptability by airplane commuters.

The obvious problem is who in his right mind would board an airplane without a certified pilot and a co-pilot? It seems that in Japan the fast trains have no train pilot aboard but are controlled before reaching destinations.  In this case, passengers are taking these trains but would rather be doubly secured by having trained pilots on board no matter the extremely high safety records of these automated trains.

Nowadays, most of these functions and task allocations are done by computer programs with the hope that an expert professional is going to take serious time to analyze the printouts and provide a judicious human feedback. These computer programs have, crossing our fingers, the necessary constraints on safety standards, health standards, serious errors restrictions and labor requirements for the least.

A student provided a version of the “Shel” model as a standard task taxonomy that would permit sharing of data among different modes of transportation and other industries.  Apparently, this model can serve as an organizational tool for data collection in the investigation of workplace.  The components of the Shel model are 1) Live ware (the individual to human interface); 2) Hardware (human to machine interface); 3) Software (human to system interface); and 4) Environment (human to environment interface).  The model might relate all peripheral elements to central human live ware and thus focus on the factors which influence human performance.

The best way to assimilate the concept of task taxonomy is by examples.  For the purpose, one of the assignments is to study the job of the bread earner of the family, through questions, observation, and investigation and analyze its task taxonomy. Another assignment is a lecture project analyzing the task taxonomy of an industry or system not covered in the course materials.

Are you wondering what methods could be used in Industrial engineering, Human Factors or Industrial Psychology for improving designs?  Would you be interested at working taxonomy for methods in the next article?

 “What other taxonomies are necessary in HF and what methods are used?”

Article #13; (April 10, 2005) 

The follow up question is: how can we conceive practical human error taxonomy before working taxonomies for the tasks required in a system?  If the types and skills required by an operators to perform a set of tasks are not well defined and studied then, it is not that useful to apply a complex and general error taxonomy that does not delineate the applicable domain. 

How can we allocate functions to either operators or machines, which means how can we decided who is better at performing a set of tasks an automated machine or a trained operator, if we cannot classify the human capabilities and limitations versus the potential capabilities and limitations of the machine we intend to design?

The current technology can automate the travel of airplanes from take off, to cruising and to landing without the need of a pilot. The obvious problem is who in his right mind would board an airplane without a certified pilot and a co-pilot?

It seems that in Japan, fast trains have no train pilot aboard but are controlled before reaching destinations.  In this case, passengers are taking these trains but would rather be doubly secured by having trained pilots on board no matter the extremely high safety records of these automated trains.

Nowadays, most of these functions and task allocations are done by computer programs with the hope that an expert professional is going to take serious time to analyze the printouts and provide a judicious human feedback. These computer programs have, crossing our fingers, the necessary constraints on safety standards, health standards, serious errors restrictions and labor requirements for the least.

This is not a futile reasoning on who comes first, the error taxonomy or task taxonomy because the consequences are not that futile on operators, end users and the whole performance of systems.  

When it comes to designing complex systems practical task and error taxonomies that delineate the domain of the operation and execution of a system is evident and time is of the essence.

In the next article I am going to let you have a hand at classifying methods by providing you with a list of various Human Factors methods.  This list of methods is not necessarily randomized but thrown in without much order; otherwise it will not be an excellent exercise. 

First, let us agree that a method is a procedure or a set of step by step process that our for runners of genius and scholars have tested, found it good, agreed on it on a consensus basis and offered it for you to use for the benefit of progress and science. 

Many of you will still try hard to find short cuts to anything, including methods, for the petty argument that the best criterion to discriminating among clever people is who waste time on methods and whom are nerds.

Actually, the main reason I don’t try to teach new methods in this course is that students might smack run into a real occupational stress which they are not immune of.

Learning information in a thousand page course materials is one thing but having to use completely new methods as how to design, conduct and run experiments and statistically analyze data for a system behavior would be too much of a stress and diligent students might go overboard and straight to a mental rehabilitation institution.

What’s that concept of Human factors in Design? (Started these articles in 2003

 What is this Human Factors profession?

 Article number                                                                                               

1.  “What is your job?”                                                                                                  

2.  “Sorry, you said Human Factors in Engineering?”                                                

3.  “So, you want systems to fit people?”                                                                   

4.  “The rights of the beast of burden; like a donkey?”                                              

5.  “Who could afford to hire Human Factors engineers?”                             

6.  “In peace time, why and how often are Human Factors hired?                    

7.  “What message should the Human Factors profession transmit?”                          

8.  “What do you design again?”                                                                                         

9.  “Besides displays and controls, what other interfaces do you design?”                 

10.  “How Human Factors gets involved in the Safety and Health of end users?”    

11.  “What kind of methods will I have to manipulate and start worrying about?” 

12.  “What are the error taxonomies in Human Factors?”                                 

13.  “What are the task taxonomies and how basic are they in HF?”                           

14.  “How useful are taxonomies of methods?”                                                               

15.  “Are occupational safety and health standards and regulations of any concern for the HF professionals?”                                                                                                       

16.  “Are there any major cross over between HF and safety engineering?”            

17.  “Tell us about a few of your teaching methods and anecdotes”                            

18.  “What this general course in Human Factors covers?”                                         

19.  “Could one general course in Human Factors make a dent in a career behavior?”                                                                                                                     

20.  “How would you like to fit Human Factors in the engineering curriculum?”  

21.  “How to restructure engineering curriculum to respond to end users demands?”

22.  “How can a class assimilate a course material of 1000 pages?”                             

23.  “What undergraduate students care about university courses?”                            

24.  “Students’ feedback on my teaching method”                                              

25.  “My pet project for undergraduate engineering curriculum”                      

26.  “Guess what my job is”                                                                                              

27.  “Do you know what your folk’s jobs are?”                                                              

28.  “How do you perceive the inspection job to mean?”                                               

29.  “How objective and scientific is a research?” 

30.  “How objective and scientific are experiments?”                                                   

31.   “A seminar on a multidisciplinary view of design”                                                  

32.  “Consumer Product Liability Engineering”                                                                 

33.  “How could you tell long and good stories from HF graphs?”                               

34.  “What message has the Human Factors profession been sending?”       

35. “Who should be in charge of workspace design?”                                                  

36.  “Efficiency of the human body structure and mind”                                                

37.  “Psycho-physical method”                                                                                       

38.  “Human factors performance criteria”                                                      

39.  “Fundamentals of controlled experimentation methods”                                      

40.  “Experimentation: natural sciences versus people’s behavior sciences”            

41.  “What do Human Factors measure?”                                                                   

42.  “New semester, new approach to teaching the course”                                       

43.  “Controlled experimentation versus Evaluation and Testing methods”               

44.  “Phases in the process of system/mission analyses”                                             

45.   “Main errors and mistakes in controlled experimentations”                   

46.  “Human Factors versus Industrial, Computer, and traditional engineering” 

47.  “How Human Factors are considered at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory”

48.  “Efficiency of the human cognitive power or mind”                                               

49.  “Human Factors versus Artificial Intelligence”                                                     

50.  Computational Rationality in Artificial Intelligence                                               

51.  “Basic Engineering and Physics Problems Transformed Mathematically”     

52.  Mathematics: a unifying abstraction for Engineering and Physics                        

53. How to optimize human potentials in businesses for profit                                      

 


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adonis49

adonis49

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