Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day."— Arthur Gordon

We can see what commitment looks like in our daily interactions with our friends and families, but what does it look like in the workplace? Specifically, what would it look like if every individual in your organization were committed to safety?

Without commitment, safety is an impossible goal. It takes constant, purposeful, diligence by everyone in the workplace to achieve a zero incident goal. CoreMedia’s latest film Commitment: Safety Doesn’t Happen Without It uses compelling stories to explore your commitments, and explains how vital commitment is to your organization. 

When everyone is committed to the same goal, powerful things happen. Begin the journey towards a zero incident safety culture with Commitment. 

 . . . 

How have you seen commitment in action around you, whether at work or at home? We'd love to hear about it! Leave your story in the comments section. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Complaint Equals Goal

In one of my many “former career” lives I was asked to spend time with the “company communications consultant.” It was a unique, small business in the Los Angeles basin that exported 100% of their product to Japan. The owner was an intelligent, caring man who really valued psychology and the “company communications consultant” had a PhD in psychology. It was my turn in the barrel, or should I say on the couch?

It is a gross understatement to say that my time in the Marine Corps had “somewhat desensitized my appreciation for soft side psycho-babble.” Nonetheless it was apparent that this friendly request was also an ultimatum and off I went to “spend time with Beth.” Was I ever surprised at the wisdom of this lady and her ability to significantly improve who I was and what I did!

One of her concepts that has stuck with me ever since is “Complaint = Goal.” As we discussed our way through, in greater depth than I thought possible, this principle made life changing sense. I was used to one or the other of two complaint approaches:
  •  The tough union manufacturing environment where “complaint = grievance”
  • The office bureaucracy environment where “complaint = gripe, moan, bitch and complain”
My very next “former career” was director of operations for a military ammunition manufacturing facility that combined both of the above union and bureaucracy complaint techniques. The organization had not made a profit in 14 years, fired the previous 6 directors in less than 6 years, been sued successfully for fraud by the government on multiple occasions, a safety severity rate of 142. What better environment to test out Beth’s paradigm?

And so we did, as I began recruiting a less than excited workforce to participate in continuous Improvement teams whose members purpose was defined as “complaint = goal.” In a mere 12 months these teams delivered the first profit in 15 years, a severity rate of 9, and a culture revolution based on solving the problems that had been millstones around their collective necks with the old complaint paradigms. They became excited about taking action to solve the problems that had been their miserable side kicks for so long. They became leaders of a new culture that put an end to complacency with focused actions performed by the people who had skin in the game.

This new approach to complaints can work in your safety department, organization, family life, and personal life. Why not give it a try?

The Doc

Monday, July 19, 2010


While sitting around the fire pit in Africa we had an enjoyable discussion with the African people who were a part of the camp. Their very different language was of interest to us, as was our American English to them. Their language has a number of terms that sound almost the same, and one of these has a history of causing family difficulties. It turns out that the word “drunkard” in Swahili is very hard to distinguish from the word for “mother-in-law.” You can imagine the troubles this might cause at times. What is said by one is not necessarily what is heard by all.

Many is the time that ‘management speak’ and ‘front line employee hear’ are not even close to the same thing. And the same goes for the vice versa of ‘work face speak’ and ‘salaried leadership hear.’ This lack of clear communication has often caused on-going problems in our workplace. We are so busy trying to do whatever tasks or projects we are focused on that we do not take the time and effort necessary to clearly communicate and then to make sure that the message that was sent is the same as the one that is received, and acted upon.

The solution to this speak-hear conundrum? I have found that small Continuous Improvement (CI or Kaizen) teams are the ideal venue for clear communication and understanding. We take the time in a face-to-face meeting to clearly resolve the issues and their various subsets. In this same team environment we decide how to let the rest of our organization know exactly what they need to learn and know.

It works for families, for operation’s issues and definitely for improving safety cultures. Let’s stop inadvertently making the embarrassing mistake of a “drunkard” mode of communication in safety and beyond.

The Doc

 Image Copyright:  (C) Seattle Weekly http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2008/05/afternoon_edition_lexis_lanes.php

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tracking vs. Doing and the Anal Retentive NVA

I once worked in an organization where the owner was enamored with psychology. He quickly made up his mind as to a psychological tag line for every employee. One of the engineers that did a really good job for us was very detail oriented. Poor Robert was forever tagged with “Anal Retentive.” There is always a level of detail that is necessary and I guess a level that is way beyond this was considered anal retentive.

In the safety world I frequently encounter this trait when it comes to tracking performance indicators (metrics). We set up measures that should make a difference in safety downstream performance (don’t you dare hang your hats on injury rates!!). We then begin the development of some kind of computer program that will catalogue these numbers, track where they came from and spit out voluminous reports. Next we try to build in the ability to back track the numbers to the person, shift, location, time, event…. The perfect anal retentive solution that is very expensive and even more cumbersome to use and evaluate. This approach is pure NVA (Non Value Added).

You might guess that such a solution is not amongst my favorite end results. How about we track safety accountability action completion (something like “Yes, I did what I was supposed to do when I was supposed to do it”) with little more than an employee name and a complete or not complete in the database.

But then how do we check at an adequate level of certainty if we don’t have an anal retentive database? This is actually pretty simple, it is called an audit. The manager/leader goes out into the workplace and asks the person being audited and their associates about the accomplishment of the activities to be audited. An audit with satisfactory answers is a pass and every one gets congratulated and then goes back to work. A practical check on a small percentage of items in question is the function of an audit and takes but a few minutes of face time. A person or group that fails then requires more detailed review. Such audit finding/failure proof or correction falls not on the database developers, but on the person or group being audited (where the proof belongs).

It is not the anal retentive database we need, it is the people doing the job consistently and correctly who can, in a practical manner, prove they are doing so. This likely means some managerial face time at the workface. What a great practical, effective substitute for anal retentive.

The Doc

Monday, July 5, 2010

NVA: Kill ‘em

The NVA; oh how we seem to love the simple solutions that are really not solutions at all but mostly Non Value Added. In safety there seems to be an unending list of NVA. Among these I list such things as: rewarding injury rates, safety bingo focused on injury rates, filling out observation cards as a major safety initiative, punishing injured employees that are deemed to be guilty of safety infractions, trash and trinket incentives, safety poster contests, safety magic….the list of ‘the usual suspects’ seems to go on forever.

Does a focus on ‘the usual suspects’ ever consistently improve safety performance in the long run? My experience with these safety cultures that are built on sand is not good. We need rock solid initiatives that focus on excellence in day-to-day actions, not another house of cards, not another program of the month.

What are your well thought out, rock solid safety accountabilities up and down and across the organization? Are they built by the people that use them? Are they based on a diagnostic that drills down to the root cause issues of a weak safety culture? Are the solutions developed by Continuous Improvement teams made up of volunteer employees that deliver practical, effective day-to-day solutions to the day-to-day issues?

Or are you locked into a safety culture that is the classic definition of insanity? Kill the NVA and get out of the hole you are in. Focus on the right stuff, not safety fluff.

The Doc

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