Monday, April 18, 2011

Confronting the Brutal Facts: Obstacles to safety excellence

Author and Professor John Kotter wrote an intriguing book on “Leading Change.” In this book, Dr. Kotter presents eight common obstacles that keep organizations from achieving excellence and then discusses what to do to overcome these barriers. But this is a management science book, what relevance can it have to industrial safety? The more I look into achieving global safety culture supremacy, the more I am convinced that excellent business approaches provide us a far better road map than we get from “the usual suspects.” Those “usual suspects” are government regulations and compliance audits (level one tools) and observation programs (level two). There is a whole other world out there that can help our profession in achieving performance excellence. Sadly any business approach to improvement has been neglected for far too long by the majority of our profession. Our safety pros need to delve into and utilize some of the same education and business tools that our promotable production culture counterparts live with on a day-to-day basis. With this in mind here are four of Dr. Kotter’s eight obstacles to achieving excellence:

• What is required to overcome the complacency that so often defeats safety improvement and safety careers?
• Where is the guiding coalition (upper management active participation) that is needed to lead safety excellence initiatives?

• What about the people and physical obstacles that keep derailing the safety initiatives?

• How often does the safety pro deliver the vision, communicate it effectively and generate a safety culture of frequent small wins?

A focus on glasses, gloves and observation check sheets just can’t deliver the kind of performance needed to overcome these common business culture obstacles. As we look to the next 100 years of safety culture improvement we will have to go beyond “the usual suspects” and begin utilizing some of the excellent readily available business practices to help us deliver a zero incident safety culture, both locally and globally.
The brutal facts are that we have plateaued in safety performance with the current decades old safety approaches that have stagnated our safety cultures. Take a look at what Dr. Kotter has to say, confront your organization’s brutal facts and start using modern culture excellence approaches that go beyond the basics that have stalled our safety initiatives.
The Doc

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