Monday, March 26, 2012

Reset – Making genuine, meaningful, effective amends

In the workplace and with the family, we have all made mistakes that we wish we could take back and start over.  Well, at least I have.  This is not a one-occasion event.  There are lots of times I have said or done things that later on cause me to cringe.  How could I have ever done or said this?  I guess it is good that we are born with a conscience that causes us to reconsider and hopefully even learn from our mistakes. 

But we need to pay attention to and act on that still, small voice that speaks to us from the inside and makes us cringe.  Ok, then what?  Recently, my wife and I had a disagreement that left us both at odds and uncomfortable.  And a thought crossed our minds about how we might do a reset and go back to the time just before we came to odds with one another.  So where is the human reset button?  She pushed my nose and said, “Reset!”   As I did the same, we smiled, backtracked and discussed the troubling interaction issue correctly.

Safety pros are especially at risk because, from the beginning, we have been trained to confront others on all that is wrong.  Believe it or not, people don’t really look forward to another safety cop ticket.  I know that on many occasions, I have not handled the giving of discipline/correction as expertly as I should have. This, in turn, has led to some broken relationships on and off the job. 

Yep, you can’t really go around doing a “push-some-body-part-reset” in our workplaces.  However, we can go up to the other party and ask for a reset that allows us to start over, discuss the issues in a rational, adult manner and get to a workable solution.  In turn, this would have us improving our communications culture and living this culture in which speaking up in an adult manner is just what we do – at work and off the job, no matter how uncomfortable the situation we are in.

The Doc

Monday, March 19, 2012

Aha! – The moments of clarity

What are your Aha! moments in safety? Was there a time or an event that brought a sudden realization in safety? I have had several:
  • The time I did not insist on "safety first" and one of my employees was injured
  • A two and a half-year period when our teams solved more than 2,000 minor issues that improved both safety and productivity
  • The "tailboard safety meetings" with my children, as I taught them rifle and pistol safety
  • My wife enforcing a no-cell-phone rule for drivers in our vehicles
  • A visit to a hospital for an injured employee and his family
There is the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And in all these, we must learn from the successes and the failures so as to eliminate all possibility of injury for those in our employ and in our families.

Please think about and learn from your personal Aha! moments so you can stay better focused on living and teaching a zero incident safety culture.

The Doc

Monday, March 12, 2012

Inmates running your asylum – Are employees really directing the company?

At a recent conference, a concern was voiced that was food for thought. If the Continuous Improvement teams are “fixing” all kinds of things, are we turning the management of our organization over to hourly employees, and is this a dangerous thing to do?

I have participated in hundreds of Continuous Improvement (CI) team events and have been amazed at the thousands of small improvements these teams deliver. Amazingly, there never seems to be an end to what employees can and will improve if we give them the training and leadership support required to make them functional with the CI processes. At first, the teams just focused on day-to-day problems that caused downtime, potentially led to injuries at the workface, and the like. Later, we began to engage the front line employees in developing solutions to weak processes like Near Miss, Incident Investigation and Contractor Safety. This was a big change that had teams providing deliverables like audits, training, accountabilities for upper management, policies and the like.

And so the above question about who is running our “asylums” or even where does it ever stop? My answers to these questions are:

• This approach of engaging employees in problem solving issues that affect them does not stop. Once you have developed a culture which thrives on the engagement of your personnel, they become hooked on doing what they can to keep winning the battles of a relentless pursuit of zero problems. For the 10% or so of the people who consistently participate in this quest for excellence, it becomes addictive to some extent.

• The process of EBS (Engagement Based Safety) does not have the employees running your organization. The employees are predominantly engaged in addressing the tactical day-to-day issues at the workface where they live. Their proposed solutions are reviewed by capable, salaried leadership. The new approaches are piloted before being rolled out, and then audited for effectiveness. In short, there are all kinds of checks and balances that keep the train (or asylum) on track.

• Additionally, the strategic initiatives are still run by the salaried management who are responsible for their kind of in depth, long term improvement process.

In conclusion: fear not, let not your heart be troubled; in this approach, the inmates will help your asylum perform beyond your wildest hopes and dreams.

The Doc

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cop or Culture – A different view of Behavior Based Safety

I think we have all attended one or more safety conferences. In my case, the answer is lots more. Attending these events means investing one of my scarce resources, time. That leads to an inevitable question; what is the return on my investment? Well, warm weather in Palm Springs, California in January is not all that miserable of a place to go to seek out an investment payoff when it is 20° at my farm home in Illinois. The kickoff speaker, Chris, provided an immediate ROI when he explained his experiences with two types of BBS (Behavior Based Safety).

The first BBS approach is what seems to be the norm with all the usual suspects (BBS system providers). Here the focus is on individual, observable behaviors and the tactic is that of a safety cop. We look at an individual’s actions and provide feedback about what is wrong. The safety cop approach provides an immediate awareness spike. However, this often quickly degenerates into meaningless data as the potential offenders and fellow employees perform their paid observer role. They become bored with the latest, ineffective “flavor of the month” that is all about changing a safety culture one employee at a time by handing out tickets.

Chris’ explanation of the alternative BBS approach was that of improving the whole organization’s safety culture with a process that engages employees from all levels and across all functions. This far more effective concept and approach has been well proven over the years, beginning with the quality improvement initiatives of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The same approach was then modified slightly to improve customer service branches of organizations, and then to improve cost and productivity functions. And now a similar system is beginning to be used in “the last frontier," safety.

The focus of a six sigma error proofing initiative is not on one person. Rather, the approach concentrates on work groups and has the employees fix their own problems. In this way, the whole culture engages and improves their group performance. At the end of the conference, I went up and thanked Chris for clearly explaining the approaches and the differences between a one-at-a-time safety cop and a total organization’s effective engagement to relentlessly deliver a zero incident safety culture.

The Doc

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