Monday, February 28, 2011

A Stitch in Time – Planning ahead in Safety

Remember that old saying “A stitch in time saves nine?”Often organizations in need of improvement have put off fixing things for so long, that what would have required a band-aide had they paid attention earlier, now requires major surgery.  It seems their culture often deals more with denial of the present state needs and focuses instead on the expedient.  That is until the little things pile up and become a full on emergency. This is a leadership issue.  It can exist at every level of the organization, and therefore needs to be solved at every level of the organization.

The solution starts with the leader in charge of the problem at hand. I remember working with a Captain of a large ship repair facility. He was under strict orders to paint a huge vessel and get it out to the fleet NOW! During the process the manned snorkel equipment used to paint the ship suddenly took a five foot drop that resulted in no injuries, but definitely frightened the painter out on the end of the boom. The Captain was under significant personal and career stress to paint the ship and release it to the fleet. Instead of taking an expedient approach, he began a thorough investigation that got to root cause before he resumed the mission critical task demanded by the Admirals to whom he reported.

He did the stitch in time before major surgery was required.

Every day, every organization has things that need improvement. As I work in the field, I make a point of asking those at the workforce and their leaders what is it that needs attention? I then make a point of following up to see that this is taken care of to both their and my satisfaction before major surgery becomes a necessity. At first the list is very long, but as attention to small stitches and major surgeries takes place the culture changes from one of firefighting to a daily accountability for the attention to details that keep us all out of the hospital.

Is it time to begin changing your culture to one that focuses on “a stitch in time?”

The Doc

Credit: Image 1

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