The International System Safety Society Strategic Plan


The System Safety Society is a non-profit scientific and engineering membership society incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia, USA. The SSS is international in scope.


The System Safety Society was organized in 1962 by visionary safety professionals who were dedicated to the advancement of the arts, sciences, and technology of system safety in pertinent areas of endeavor for the benefit of all mankind. These visionaries, and other safety pioneers and dedicated safety professionals who came afterward, have continued to develop the system safety concept and created what we define today as the system safety discipline. This strategic plan is focused on building on these past achievements and continuing the tradition started by the Society's forefathers to advance the arts, sciences, and technology of system safety.

System Safety Defined

The system safety concept is the application of special technical and managerial skills to the systematic, identification and elimination or control of hazards throughout the life-cycle of a system.

A system is defined as a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements that are organized and integrated to form a collective unity and perform a specific task or function under the influence of related stresses. These stresses can be either expected, as part of normal operations, or unexpected, as part of inadvertent acts that produce beyond normal (i.e., abnormal) stresses. This definition of a system, therefore, includes not only the product or the process, but the influences that the surrounding environment (including human interactions) may have on the product's or process' safety performance.

A "system," therefore, defines the boundaries which the systematic process of hazard identification and control is applied. The system can range in complexity from a manned spacecraft to an autonomous machine tool. System safety techniques work equally well on both to help the designer understand and eliminate the hazards, or control them to achieve an acceptable level of safety.

The Discipline of System Safety

The science of system safety is created through systematic and continuous pursuit of scientific knowledge and understanding of technology and its application in engineered devices, and of biotechnology (the study of the human/machine interface) in both expected and unexpected circumstances. The proper management of this science will provide the framework and work environment to allow system safety professionals to create the best total system safety solutions for their customers. Organizing the science into a field of study creates what we define as the discipline of system safety.


Be the recognized international leader in the system safety discipline.


Advance the system safety discipline by creating an international, interdependent network of system safety professionals dedicated to the continuous improvement of the art, sciences and technology needed to provide the best total system safety solutions.

Guiding Principle Values

Clarity of mission and values form the foundation of an effective organization. The leadership of the SSS pledges to follow a value-based management style in carrying out our mission. Our guiding principle values and their definitions were created at the 15th International System Safety Conference. They are:

1.       Integrity - primary consensus as the most important value both personally and professionally regarding the way we conduct ourselves individually and as an organization. Other related values which portray the meaning of integrity are truth, dependability, and honesty. Integrity increases by making choices based on your principle values.

2.       Teamwork - with trust and respect for the individual, we can begin to cooperate and be responsive to our mutual needs. This is the key to accomplishing our common goals.

3.       Excellence - achieving excellence implies a high level of respect, achievement, understanding of the art of system safety and its interrelations. Excellence requires innovation, desire to learn and accept; to recognize what will work and what will not.

4.       Purposefulness - having a clearly focused purpose, direction, and plan, and having the resolve and commitment to follow through.

Strategic Objectives

With this mission and values in mind, we have established three interdependent branches of business focus to realize our vision. These are:  1) science and technology, 2) information, and 3) education. These branches provide a framework to develop the knowledge and enabling capabilities to create the best total system safety solutions and advance the system safety discipline. The following is a more detailed definition of these three branches.

1.       Science and Technology - The Science and Technology branch focuses on capturing, not only the Society's own developments, but science and technology advancements coming from the international community; especially those in industry, academia, government, and the national laboratories. The latest developments in the scientific and engineering community will be scanned with an eye toward their value in advancing the system safety discipline and building our knowledge base. Under this branch, we will also foster and, as resources permit, sponsor research to advance the safety discipline in areas not already being addressed by others. We will look to leverage our resources through partnering agreements with other organizations to address areas of mutual interest.  

2.       Information - The Information branch is the customer of the Science & Technology branch and the supplier to the Education branch. This branch focuses on three activities: 1) hunting, gathering, and archiving of pertinent system, product, and process safety information into the database; 2) an information retrieval system serving as a resource for remote inquiries on system safety data; and 3) a virtual broker, bringing together the needs and capabilities of two or more parties to solve specific system safety problems.  

This branch will be the keepers of the system safety knowledge database to include the art ("know-how") and best practices and lessons learned developed by the leaders in the international system safety community. We will constantly canvass the system safety profession for the latest developments so we can provide the best, most current knowledge to our customers.

Also, this branch will have a database of the expertise of the membership. Customers with specific problems, or those who want some informal peer review can submit and route their inquiries to appropriate individuals via the SSS web page. By design, customer interaction with this branch is intended to be on-demand through the home page for 24-hour accessibility.

3.       Education - The Education branch focuses on creating the enabling knowledge that will allow our customers develop the best total system safety solutions for their customers. It transforms the data from the Information and Science & Technology branches into customized, nourishing and edible bites of knowledge to fulfill customer needs. Our customers include our members, those safety professionals in the public and private sector, and other individuals and organizations in need of safety knowledge.

The membership is served by creating an infrastructure and environment for professional development of the system safety professional; to include certification, licensing, and mentoring.

The public, academia, government agencies and industry are served by us listening to their system safety problems and creating the enabling knowledge that will allow them to create the best solutions. This includes communicating the system safety discipline in a meaningful way, helping to integrate the system safety discipline into the engineering curricula, and participating in standards development in the global arena.

This branch also includes our outreach program to build the customer relationships that will allow us to understand changing customer needs and, therefore, direct the Information and Science & Technology branches for a continuously improving knowledge base. By design, interaction with the customer will be by appointment.

Figure 1 shows the interdependency of the three branches.

Figure 1 Creating System Safety Knowledge


Strategic Goals

Science & Technology (ST)

Goal ST1- Create an international system safety network that focuses on bringing the connectivity to the latest technological developments and how they will affect system safety.


(ST1-1) Build a broad foundation of membership in diverse technological fields and product areas, such as defense, aerospace, academia, manufacturing, transportation, medical, insurance, legal, telecommunications, oil & gas, and other high-consequence operations.

(ST1-2) Develop partnerships with major industries, universities, national laboratories, and related professional organizations to share and sponsor S&T advancements that will advance the system safety discipline.

Example Metrics

  • partnership to share S&T formed;
  • Society membership increases in non-traditional industries;


Information (IN)

Goal IN1 - Create a 24-hour, on-demand system safety information resource.


(IN1-1) Develop a data entry, archiving and on-demand distribution system for system safety information, to include best practices, lessons learned, training materials, frequently asked questions & answers, etc., (our corporate memory).

(IN1-2) Create an on-demand virtual broker system (consultants list) that facilitates bringing the right system safety expert(s) in touch with the customer to solve system safety problems.

(IN1-3) Create a keyword, searchable system safety bibliography on the web.

Example Metrics

  • significant number of hits on web page;
  • number of links to our web page;
  • survey of membership and international safety community for best practices, lessons learned, and expertise;
  • number of customer/expertise contacts;

Goal IN2 - Improve HQ response to customer needs.


(IN2-1) Upgrade the HQ's telecommunications system (e.g., computer system, voice messaging, conference calling, develop capability to conduct tele-EC meetings)

(IN2-2) Establish office procedures and responsibilities for office staff.

(IN2-3) Set up tracking and retrieval system for official communication and membership status.

(IN2-4) Develop profit sharing program for chapters participating in conference planning.

Example Metrics

  • update & publish Society Operations Manual;
  • published conference planning manual;
  • establish Director of Conferences;
  • economies of scale realized through long term contracts for conference activities, e.g., publishing proceedings, hotel site, sponsorship, etc.
  • conduct effective bimonthly tele-EC meetings;


Education (ED)

Goal ED1 - Integrate the products of the S&T and Information branches to create the knowledge base and capability to enable our customers to develop the best design solutions for their customers' system, product or process safety problems.


(ED1-1) Develop a guidance document for creating a system safety standard for a wide and diverse customer base.

(ED1-2) Develop system safety principles that define the framework for evaluating the affect of S&T advances.

(ED1-3) Develop a system safety fundamentals course.

Example Metrics

  • one thank you letter received per year from a customer recognizing we have been part of their success;

Goal 2 - Provide professional development opportunities for the members.


(ED2-1) Conduct annual international conferences.

(ED2-2) Develop professional certification program;

(ED2-3) Establish mentoring role for Fellow members;

Example Metrics

  • number of CSPs;
  • chapter president mentoring role identified;
  • number of speaking engagements at seminars;
  • members involved with pre- and post secondary education interactions;


Goal ED3 - Increase national and international influence.


(ED3-1) Integrate the system safety discipline into the university engineering curriculum;

(ED3-2) Develop and provide system safety educational training;

(ED3-3) Develop SSS points of contact with those organizations that complement our vision, mission, and strategic objectives.

(ED3-4) Explore the market pull for organizing the Institute for Design Assurance (the 'ilities' of systems engineering).

(ED3-5) Participate in international standards development, develop national safety policy statements (e.g., design for safety, don't rely on serendipity), etc.

(ED3-6) Create international infrastructure for conducting annual conferences.

Example Metrics

  • one university program integrating system safety discipline into engineering curricula by 1999;
  • globalized conference planning committee;
  • increased international membership;
  • one international Chapter formed by 1999;
  • an international partnership, association, or joint collaboration (e.g., standards committee, schedule joint conference) by 1999;


Goal ED4 - Institutionalize continuous improvement program.


(ED4-1) Seek customer input, identify gaps in knowledge base; identify remedial efforts.

(ED4-2) Invite strategic thinking guest speakers to the international conferences.

(ED4-3) Create Past-Presidents' Council as an advisory committee independently reviewing our effectiveness.

(ED4-4) Create focused intersociety task teams for peer review, to pursue mutual goals, and for cross-fertilization leaning.

(ED4-5) Create benchmarking program to improve business operations.

Example Metrics

  • customer feedback form developed;
  • speakers list identified;
  • intersociety task teams formed;
  • benchmark visit made; lessons learned;
  • recommendations report from Past-Presidents' Council.


Executive Organization and Responsibilities

Figure 2 defines the communication channels of the executive committee and their detailed responsibilities.  The "Star Chart" (Figure 2) depicts a conceptual view of how communication should (could) flow within the Society. It is not meant to depict the only way information is shared but the minimum requirements. We as a Society need to identify how we are going to operate and manage our processes to meet our established goals. The Star Chart attempts to identify minimum coordination connections to the elected officers. Your comments are welcome.

For coordination purposes, each committee chair should be reporting to a Director. Each Director can name an Operating Vice President to help them carry out their responsibilities. An OVP is therefore not required but can be named during the tenure of the elected official. The Regional Vice Presidents do not yet exist in the way in which this chart depicts.  The idea behind this new definition of RVPs (refer to one in bylaws) is two-fold:

  • Engage the next potential national officers in more of the day-to-day operations to get a flavor of what is going on at the national scene. This would provide a mentoring opportunity for the chapter presidents as well as broadening the input to the daily Society operations;
  • Create more accountability for disseminating and gathering society information to and from the regions' chapters.

Figure 2 Executive Organization "Star Chart"

The RVPs would be elected by the respective regions from the current pool of Chapter Presidents in that region. This definition necessitates a revisit to the boundaries of the regions since not all regions have equal numbers of chapters. The RVPs could be a rotational assignment to allow each of the Chapter Presidents a time in the saddle. The concept here is to allow greater participation by the chapter presidents in the daily ops without over-encumbering the communication channels of the executive branch. This arrangement would not obviate the requirement for coordination of Society issues with the entire EC. Look at it more as the implementation flow rather than the decision flow. The Past-Presidents' Council was created to take greater advantage of our historical experience base. This seems like a very valuable yet untapped resource that would re-engage our past leaders.