Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CEO writes to his Management Team

Every president and CEO I've worked for has -- at one time or another -- asked me to craft an email message. It's my job to blend the right message with the right tenor and voice. This time it was a client who needed to communicate to his management team why it was important that they set aside a full day to understand why the company was about to transform its safety culture. Below is a draft. I share in the spirit of, um, sharing. I hope it's helpful.
Management Team,
In our mission to establish a culture of sustainable safety excellence, I’m asking each of you to set aside Thursday, June 25, to take part in a Zero-Incident Performance Roundtable, a facilitated work session designed specially for management teams.

As many of you know, we’ve enlisted the expertise of CoreMedia, a Portland-based safety culture agency, whose consultants and their supporting staff come highly recommended by companies such as Caterpillar, Knife River, Holt CAT, Atkinson Construction, Dresser Industries, Navistar, and so on. Their approach is simple: help companies create cultures of involvement. It’s the old “teach a person to fish so he can eat for a lifetime” concept. Because nothing is more important than protecting life and limb, our involvement is essential to making this succeed.

The Roundtable promises to be a mix of the CoreMedia consultant understanding how we work, what we’re up against, and facilitating an exchange of ideas about how to hit the ground running.

At the conclusion of the work session, we should have a greater perspective on how and why heightened safety awareness demands the same level of urgency as quality control and scheduling and completion goals. The same “leading indicators” apply, which means we’re about to see how investing in safety excellence benefits our entire work culture, and why safety impacts our overall business performance. Outcomes include:

1. Reaching a clear understanding of management’s role and commitment.

2. Agreeing on perceived strengths and weakness of the current safety culture.

3. Agreeing to next steps for why, when, and how to implement change.

4. Learning about the Six Criteria for Safety Excellence, the discipline of leadership and the imperative of leading indicators.

Gaining an overview of the Zero-Incident Performance Process to initiate and establish internally-led strategy implementation.

A healthy and vibrant safety culture means having jobsites that embrace (and recognize) good behaviors because it’s the right thing to do (rather than because a foreman is watching). Getting from Point A to Point B demands a genuine shift in attitudes and behaviors and authentic leadership from all levels. Without establishing safety as a mission critical component at the top, it’s nearly impossible to gain traction or overcome the status quo. A shift in our safety culture starts with each of us. Not only do we have a responsibility to walk the talk, but it’s also vital that we all get behind the mission.

Ultimately, my hope is that ACME Mfg will have the tools to create an atmosphere that champions speaking up and listening up and to recognize when our workers speak out about their safety concerns or have ideas on how to eliminate risk and complacency. A culture of involvement is vital; it affects so much whether it’s how we treat our clients, prospects, vendors, and one another. Involvement and initiative have a way of ensuring that every moment and decision matters.

By the end of the six hours, we will have defined the necessary components to plan for a company-wide culture-change initiative. Included in the process is the plan to conduct a Safety Perception Survey, which asks everyone — managers, foremen and employees — to respond to 99 yes-no questions that map to 21 statistically validated safety-culture categories. The greater the rate of participation, the better the outcome. We’ll talk more about the culture assessment and its timetable at our work session.

To be successful, we need to continue to work together. And if I had to choose our proudest attribute, it’s being surrounded by the number of people who truly believe how much better off we are as a team than as individuals. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Mark your calendar for June 25. I look forward to having you take part.

Mr. Prez
The letter is too long, I know. If I have my say, it'll be lopped by half. I promise.

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