Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Word (or several) about Compromise

Management insights aren’t just the perview of business execs and management gurus. In fact, the most powerful lessons probably come from history's great thinkers, whether it's Sidhartha or Thoreau.

Here's this nugget from Mohatma Gandhi:

All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.

so, what's my point?

Companies need clearly articulated safety-culture and behavioral ”fundamentals.”

Gandhi’s quote means that organizations start to fall apart when they compromise their fundamental beliefs. Over time, the compromises can undermine, or even eliminate, the core value of the organization.

Increasing profits represents a very clear mission for companies -- everyone can understand why most companies have an army of accountants tracking fiscal performance. But safety-culture visions are often much less formed and not nearly as well tracked. At least when it comes to safety's leading indicators.

Without a clear vision about safety culture, companies will constantly feel the pressure to make decisions that optimize the well-defined goal (profits) at the expense of less-defined goals (like customer service) and, um, safety. It’s not that profitability is bad (of course), but organizations need to think of profits more as an outcome than as a goal. That’s why companies need to better articulate their beliefs about how they create value for people -- which impacts how we're able to eliminate risk and complacency.

The bottom line: Understanding your safety culture “fundamental” beliefs is critical to sustainability.

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