The realities of procedure deviance: A qualitative examination of divergent work-as-done and work-as-imagined perspectives

Anjelica Mendoza, Sin Ning Cindy Liu, Alec Smith, Joseph W. Hendricks, S. Camille Peres, Farzan Sasangohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The differences between ‘work as imagined’ (WAI) and ‘work as done’ (WAD) reflect theoretically pervasive and well-known barriers to the examination of human performance at work. Due to the dynamic and situational nature of the workplace, the idealized performance reflected in procedures is not always done as prescribed, and thus provides an excellent opportunity for examining divergence between WAI and WAD. The identification and examination of this gap and the nature of these deviations are imperative for high-risk industries to understand how workers' tools—in this case procedures—can be effectively designed and maintained. The present study used thematic analysis to compare procedure administrator and management performance expectations (representing WAI) to the realities of user performance (representing WAD) through interviews collected at several large, international chemical corporation sites. Direct comparisons of these perspectives revealed divergent expectations of how procedures are used and when they are most useful: Users reported deviating more often than administrators perceived the users deviate; users reported that tasks were the cause of the deviations more than administrators; and administrators thought that users may deviate from the procedures unintentionally while users did not report this. For a procedural system to perform optimally, these differences and the underlying processes that perpetuate them must be identified and further examined. To this end, relevant findings and theories from the human factors, ergonomics, and psychology literatures are identified and future directions are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103564
JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Petrochemical industry
  • Process control
  • Protocol deviations
  • Safety procedures
  • Semi-structured interview
  • Standard operating procedures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'The realities of procedure deviance: A qualitative examination of divergent work-as-done and work-as-imagined perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this