Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

I recently lead a two day safety excellence workshop in the Middle East. Shortly thereafter one of the attendees, Ricardo, emailed me the following question: “Would you please tell me from your experience with the organizations you've surveyed, what the average Safety Sigma is? I would appreciate very much your reply.” My answer to this intriguing question is as follows:
Thank you Ricardo for the asking a key question. As for where most organizations fall along the six sigma continuum: My opinion is that their average is between a one and a two, more like a 1.5 to a 2.5.
  • Level 1: Lots of regs (regulations) focus, though not really built into a culture of compliance excellence, more like rules that the culture doesn’t really carefully follow, especially during production crunch time
  • At level 2 the elephant in the room is that the observation programs are more about paperwork focused on the regs than engagement on the real issues. With Near Miss, Inspections and JSAs being similar ‘check in the box’ paperwork focused marginally effective “programs.” The organizations are typically missing living a culture of excellence and employee engagement when it comes to doing the foundational things that really can help deliver a culture of zero injuries
  • Level three Safety Accountability, the tipping point of safety excellence, is mostly a “big huh?”
  • Level 4 diagnostics: The sleeping giant that if awakened would really start a revolution focused on zero
  • Level 5 Continuous Improvement teams: This tool waits patiently in the wings. Many organizations already use this approach in other areas, but just have never thought of doing it in safety. My guess here is that all the regs focus has kind of blinded the safety pros to anything outside the past 50 years of traditional approaches
  • Level 6 Passionate Safety Leadership: These people too are in the wings, an undiscovered gold mine of talent that needs to be unearthed. It is there waiting to shine forth if we could just dig out the overlying rubble of doing what we have always done and expecting different results
I hope this doesn’t sound to you like I am a cynic. What I have found is that most organizations are well prepared to go forward and achieve huge improvements in safety culture and the resultant decrease in injuries and incidents. All the training in the foundational necessities of regs, observations, JSAs, Inspections and Near Miss Reporting is in place! What is missing? I think the catalysts that get the whole safety excellence culture up and running deals with:
  • Training of leadership in safety culture excellence models that make sense and paint a credible, achievable vision that is now lacking. Once these people get to a place of “knowing what they don’t know” the level 6 leaders will come out of the woodwork and engage
  • Doing a diagnostic. As Plato once said: “Treatment without diagnosis is malpractice.” An excellent safety perception survey starts to clear the rubble and expose what level 5 teams and level 6 leaders want to and need to engage in to really get to zero
  • Safety Accountabilities! All other operations functions live accountabilities. A one day workshop opens eyes to a viable future state and kick starts the engine that delivers excellence
And the $64,000 question: “How do we do this?” My answer is that you are right there now. Time and again as we have given this type of six sigma seminar a few people in the audience have the “Aha!” moment. They then go to their leadership and get approval to do the last three things listed above. Once this occurs you are off and running on a journey that will deliver safety excellence culture performance that was never dreamed possible. May you and your organization take that first step soon.

Thanks for asking Ricardo.

The Doc

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