As with many professions, safety pros are often focused on a never ending quest for excellence. One of my favorite books on this journey is Leading Change written by a Harvard professor, Dr. John Kotter. This book is not about safety, it is about business excellence and how to get there. As I read through Kotter’s eight barriers to change, they seemed to be all about what impedes organizations from achieving a culture of safety excellence. Number one is complacency, being satisfied with good enough. Another of those business books, Good to Great, teaches that good is the enemy of great. And this also directly applies to safety efforts. Some of Kotter’s other barriers include things like; the lack of leadership engagement, vision, commitment, recognition and a few others.
All of these are business issues that directly relate to the struggle to achieve safety culture excellence. As I have worked with organizations that are trying to get from WOW (Worst Of the Worst) to BOB (Best Of the Best), they all have had a face-to-face confrontation with Kotter’s eight significant barriers to change/improvement. Most of these organizations have reached a point in their maturity where they are on a passionate mission to achieve ZIP (Zero Incident Performance); most, but not all. There are some that get good enough for their management and the focus goes back to feeding the Operations Gorilla while maintaining an acceptable number of injuries, i.e., at or somewhat better than industry average injury rates. These organizations stop at BOW (Best Of the Worst). They are in my hall of shame, or as I once heard a college friend muse, they become “Queen of the Pigs.”
Where are you on the continuum of safety excellence; WOW, BOW, BOB? Please stay the course in the relentless pursuit of excellence. Your employees do not want your organization to put forth the less than adequate effort and become yet another Queen of the Pigs.