Monday, December 27, 2010

Retake-Learnings from past mistakes

There are many times in life when we wish we could have a retake. Whether because of mistakes we have made in facial expressions, voice inflexions, words, or deeds- we wish we could start over.  We wish we could take back all that we messed up that has affected ourselves and others. 

Over the years I have found that for many of these personal mistakes I get a chance to try again when a similar circumstance occurs.  The question then is, have we learned from our mistakes? Have we learned our lesson, or have our inappropriate behaviors/responses become such a part of us that we head back down our own personal road to destruction? 

Those questions can be asked about safety as well. Are we just repeating the same mistakes? 


Do we get trapped in the accident reaction cycle, or do we strive to learn from and improve safety culture based on our past?

The choice is ours. 

The Doc

Image credit 1:  2:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Snake’s Tail- Permanent problem solutions

In one of my other career lives, I assumed responsibility for an injection molding business that was plagued with poor quality, late deliveries, deceitful rumor mongering and, of course, the resultant threat of bankruptcy. If you have been a somewhat regular reader of these short blog articles it is likely you are thinking there is about to be a story that has something about forming Continuous Improvement teams. Yes, and yet that is not the point of this vignette.

The injection molding reality is replete with a myriad of machine and technology variables. Of course there were also people variables that in combination delivered a really murky pit of despair. The relentless pressure to make more parts, sooner, with less labor had the previous administration following an approach of “good enough” and not a culture of excellence. “Just get it out the door now!” seemed to be what was done every day in every way. In turn, that led to the daily crud with a work force whose morale was in the same pit of despair. One more dynamic, my college student son was a summer intern in the electrical maintenance department. Of course he was watching my actions and would learn whatever lessons were communicated by an organization under my leadership.

The question then: To follow the current culture of expedient, or to develop a culture of an unwavering commitment to excellence? The employees were knee deep in snakes and I was an elephant on a tight rope (a big target in a precarious situation that couldn’t be missed by those who decided to take shots at me. Fortunately this elephant also comes with a thick skin). Those of you who are somewhat regular readers of these short blog articles might expect that it is time for a ‘My papa once done told me,’ so here it is: “Son don’t ever cut an inch off a snake’s tail. It just pisses them off. Go for the head!”

Our Continuous Improvement teams became committed to “killing the snakes” with which they had been living forever. They developed Purpose, Outcomes, Process (POP) statements that were focused on taking no prisoners, all problems must be solved by them. Their Action Item Matrices (AIM) listed every problem they could think of with respect to the snake (problem) at hand. At the end of each snake killing initiative, the team held a celebration lunch and handed out small (dead) plastic snakes in recognition of their successful “going for the head” efforts.

Soon the whole business turned around and my son learned a valuable lesson that ‘his papa once done told him’ in both words and actions. Got snakes? Go for the head!

The Doc

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kilimanjaro- The Role of New Technologies for Solving Difficult Issues

Kilimanjaro is a very large mountain (about 19,000 feet) near the equator of Africa. In the local language Kilimanjaro translates to ‘difficult mountain.’ In the 1800s it was a very difficult mountain to climb. The modern technology for mountain climbing was not invented and very few people were fit enough to be able to make the climb. However, in our century about 200 people begin the trek to the top of Kilimanjaro each day and there is even an annual round trip marathon run to the top of Kilimanjaro. Areas of the mountain which were not climbable 100 years ago are now a normal venue for the climbers with newer technology tools, equipment and a culture of fitness.

In today’s workplace we too have some difficult safety culture mountains which need to be climbed that weren’t even attempted 50 years ago. The old technology of regulations, observations and authoritarian management style will only take us part way up the mountain of a zero injury safety culture. They will not take us all the way, nor will they solve certain reality areas that require something beyond glasses and gloves and punitive discipline. The whole new world of human culture in a very diverse workplace requires new, more advanced safety technologies.

What newer tools and technologies are available for our current difficult safety mountain challenges?
  • A good diagnostic of your existing safety culture to determine what terrain needs to be conquered
  • A series of joint management-employee teams to address the culture crevasses that exist
  • A lifestyle of safety accountabilities (fitness) for all which in turn develops a passionate culture of zero injuries and engages people from across your organization.
The end result of the application of these new safety technologies is that all in the team are able to live in and enjoy the benefits of a zero injury safety culture. We now have the means to regularly conquer our current day, more difficult safety mountains and deliver a culture that just doesn’t have injuries.

The Doc

Image 1: Back On My Feet

Monday, December 6, 2010

Poop- A culture that solves hard problems

In the Middle America fly over country farm belt where I live there is a humorous old story about a farmer and his son who are walking down a dirt road at dusk. The farmer sees a big pile, turns to his son and says; “Looks like poop.” As they get closer he tells his son; “Smells like poop.” He reaches down and sticks a finger in the pile; “Feels like poop.” The farmer puts his finger to his tongue and mutters; “Tastes like poop, sure glad we didn’t step in it!”

It is not all that uncommon for safety pros to be confronted by serious problems that sure look, smell and feel like a pile of poop. However, in our profession that is all about eliminating the possibilities of injury, we can’t walk around (avoid) these stinking realities. We aren’t paid to step into the piles either. Rather, we are to work with our fellow employees and carefully shovel the dangers out of our work and off the job environments.

Safety can be a very satisfying career, and denial or aversion of difficult situations is not a part of who we are.

The Doc

Friday, December 3, 2010

Biggest Threat To Business?

"Change works best when it's collaborative and interactive"--couldn't have said it better ourselves! Below is an article by best selling author Harvey Mackay . We liked it so much we had to post it!

There’s an old saying that goes: It’s easy to change things. It’s hard to change people.
Resistance to change is perhaps the biggest threat to progress a business can face.

Case in point: In 1972, a young engineer at Texas Instruments named Gary Boone came up with the idea for a full computer on a chip, which we now know as the microprocessor. He got a patent even though he had trouble getting his colleagues interested in his work.

Eventually, Boone made enough noise to get a meeting with the company’s top computer jockey. Boone explained his idea for a computer on a chip to his superior.

“Young man,” said the expert, “don’t you realize that computers are getting bigger, not smaller?”


Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak tried to sell the idea of personal computers to their bosses at Atari and Hewlett-Packard. But their bosses weren’t interested. So Jobs and Wozniak started Apple Computer. For the quarter ending September 2010, Apple Inc. had revenue of $20 billion. (I got that information on my iPhone.)

Neither of these changes happened overnight, nor were they without plenty of hard work and hand-wringing. Not all changes are for the better. Anybody remember New Coke? But those instances quickly prove to be learning experiences for the next innovation.

I am in an industry that has seen remarkable change in the last 20 years. Communication that used to be mailed in a crisp envelope now travels through cyberspace almost instantly. Fax machines and the Internet forced us to look at the future of our business. We are constantly readjusting — changing — to accommodate and, in fact thrive, in our increasingly paperless society.

To not only survive, but also to thrive, the skill you need to master is resilience.

Your organization’s ability to change quickly depends on your employees. Memos and new mission statements won’t produce results on their own. Change has to come from within your work force.

If you’re a manager, you need to set the stage so employees know what’s happening in your company and in your industry, or they won’t see any reason to do things differently. Share as much as you can about your finances, the problems your organization is facing, and what’s likely to happen if you all do nothing.

Remind your staff that change takes time. To be successful people will have to look to the future, not to short-term gains and losses. Performance won’t be transformed overnight. Once you’ve restructured, implemented new systems and launched new strategies, give the learning curve time to achieve the progress you’re looking for. Don’t be so impatient for results that you sabotage your efforts and those of your work force.

Change works best when it’s a collaborative, interactive process. Consider everyone who’ll be affected, from front-line employees to high management, as well as customers and other stakeholders. Provide them with updates on your progress. Ask them how it’s going and what could speed things along.

If you’ve done a good job of selling the change and giving them the facts they need to bring it to life, their insights and opinions will prove invaluable.

Susan Dunn, a clinical psychologist, has observed that people who can bounce back after failure and figure out what needs to change to confront new obstacles without losing their nerve generally do these essential things:

• Learn from experience. Resilient people reflect on what happens to them — good and bad — so they can move forward without illusion.

• Accept setbacks and losses. Face the reality of what happens in order to get past it.

• Recognize emotions. Resilient people identify what they’re feeling and express their emotions appropriately.

• Keep time in perspective. Past, present, and future are separate. Don’t mix them up (by letting what’s in the past determine your choices in the here and now, for example).

• Think creatively and flexibly. Look for new ways to solve problems and face challenges.

• Take care of yourself. Resilience is based on good physical and mental health. Get enough rest, eat sensibly, and spend time with people who support you.

• Ask for help. Resilient people don’t try to do everything themselves. Ask others for assistance, and learn how to do so graciously and effectively.

Mackay’s Moral: If you still believe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you might as well roll over and play dead.

Source: Change works best when collaborative | Portland Business Journal 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Incentive Programs?

I've been seeing some great questions on LinkedIn lately, and decided to answer a couple via a blog post. 

Christopher W., Safety Director at Stansell Electric Co., Inc. asked:

What are your feelings related to incentive programs as a part of the safety program? 

I am sure you have accessed all kinds of negatives and positives from others on safety incentive programs.  I have seen a number of incentive systems used by organizations we have worked with in many different countries.  From this, my personal sample I have found two types of incentives that have a measureable positive influence on a safety culture:

A downstream indicator celebration event:  This type of safety incentive is an unannounced celebration when a milestone event occurs.  A typical downstream indicator safety milestone would be something like ‘One Million Hours Worked Without an Injury.’  The leadership of the organization waits until the milestone is achieved and then holds a significant celebration for all employees, like a catered meal.  If they hype the event before it occurs people have a tendency to hide injuries and this is not a positive safety culture characteristic.  The celebration is not a matter of money or the typical ‘trinkets and trash.’  Rather it is upper management, hourly and salaried safety leadership visibly and personally thanking all those in the organization for delivering an injury free culture.

Daily visible, felt, personal feedback for doing the job safely and correctly.  This is an upstream indicator that is far more effective than all the meals and gadgets given out for injury rates.  Each level of an organization develops safety accountabilities that become their own leading indicators.  Some of these indicators for each level include giving personal feedback to others for demonstrating the presence of an individual’s correct safety culture.  In this way personal, positive, real and effective one-on-one contacts provide the incentive (positive reinforcement) to continue living a zero incident safety culture.  This is the low cost, highly effective safety incentive program I prefer

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