Monday, April 30, 2012

Wherever two or more are gathered – critical mass for any initiative

There was a 60s rock song about one being the loneliest number there ever was.  It is human nature to seek some kind of partnership to get anything done.  Back in the 80s, I talked to an associate who was trying to recruit technical talent from various minority ethnic cultures.  They quickly discovered that if there was only one nontraditional employee in the group, that person left and found employment with another organization where similar companionship was available.

This same concept applies to a culture change, improvement initiative, a new organization, or the like. It takes two or more like minded people to achieve sustainable success. As you begin any of the many improvement plans you want to get ingrained into your organization, be sure you have a soul mate upon which you can count for support.  Yes, even the Lone Ranger needed Tonto to be successful.
The Doc

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pro or Wannabe – Your personal performance realities

I recently had a chance to work with an excellent skier who gave me a great lesson in performance reality. Tom Petras loves skiing moguls and by his own standards is “pretty darn good at it.”  In an effort to improve his abilities he paid for coaching from a professional skier. Much to Tom’s chagrin the pro’s evaluation of his “pretty darn good” technique and ability came back as “a closely linked series of recoveries.”  We all had a good laugh and then discussed another acquaintance who decided to become a pro golfer even though he never really played golf until later in life. His professional coach advised a need for 10,000 hours of concentrated practice to raise his skills to a point at which he could make a valid decision whether or not “to continue to try to become a pro golfer.”

Tom and our group reached some conclusions out of these dialogues about professional performance. You need dedication, practice, drive, ability, good technique and a relentless pursuit of excellence to even come close to the execution levels of professionals who daily achieve measures accomplished by the best of the best.

Is there any parallel in safety performance? You bet! Those organizations that routinely go years without lost time or medical incidents all have a leading-edge engagement culture that has their whole organization focused on dedication, practice, drive, technique and a relentless pursuit of zero errors (incidents). Every day they practice models of process excellence and are always in search of ways to improve their performance. They do the fundamentals well and then go way beyond the basics. The rest of the pack of safety professional wannabes who have safety cultures that are pretty darn good seem to just live a culture where there is a closely linked series of recoveries.
The Doc

Monday, April 16, 2012

Day-in and day-out: How to keep moving toward excellence

Over the years, I have heard a consistent refrain of how an organization gets to be very good and then stays that way. This thread goes something like: In the essentials – conformity; in the non-essentials –  liberty. And in all things – caring.

From a safety standpoint, the essentials are the regulations that are truly fundamental to what safety professionals and employees must do to avoid and eliminate injuries.

One of the non-essential liberties that will help us get really good is a culture of continuous improvement. This approach has employees across the organization relentlessly engaged in fixing all we can find. The continuous improvement initiative helps us to go beyond the performance that is available via a traditional regs single focus.

The remaining piece is a fantastic part of our profession:  A culture of caring about the lives of others. May we all continue to practice the essentials, the liberties and caring about the who, the what, the how and …

The Doc

Monday, April 9, 2012

Handle With Care – The many risks of life

We live in a society that is overrun with warning labels. From disclaimers on pills to expiration dates on foods to danger signs on chainsaws – warning labels draw our attention to impending hazards. Recently, I received a box with a gift inside. The sender had attached a big red sticker on the package that said “FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE.”  When I think about life and its fragility, I wonder if we shouldn’t all wear one of these red stickers.

It is not a good idea to cruise through life thinking we are invincible and that everything is going to be just fine – only to discover that we are far more fragile than we thought. It takes only a call from a doctor telling us that we have a life-threatening disease, or the swerve of a careless driver in front of us to remind us that life is extremely uncertain. As safety pros, we know this same reality exists in the workplace. Though we use our professional abilities to reduce the risks for ourselves and others, there are no guarantees! None of us can be certain of another breath. So an important piece of advice … a warning label of sorts:  “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” 

Let’s choose to live as though these were our last moments on earth by loving more deeply, forgiving more readily, giving more generously, caring more genuinely and speaking more kindly. The daily exhibiting of a heart with this kind of wisdom is living a personal value culture that allows us to handle life with care.

The Doc    

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stick a Fork In It – Eliminating the Non-Value-Added Activities

I was recently working with a large corporation that was doing fairly well in safety, but not good enough to be where they wanted to be; a zero-incident safety culture. Over the last couple of years, they had become seriously engaged in addressing troubling safety and environmental issues that had existed for years. An upper-level manager lamented that every time they turned over a rock, there was another pile of bad news. That led them to a number of immediate concern clean-up initiatives, which in turn maxed out their resource capabilities to tackle longer term strategic initiatives.

The conversation took a slight shift when the annual safety and environmental report they had been producing, for who knows how long, was brought up. This report took a significant amount of resources, so much so that it typically was launched somewhere in the June time frame. The discussion led to a realization that only one comment had been received on the report in years, and that no one really gave this old news much, if any, attention. However, they had always done it this way, and were concerned about dropping the tradition that had been in place for so long.

This brought to mind my turn-around experiences in which there was always too much to do with too little time and too few people. In the continuous improvement cultures of excellence, a common scenario has the leadership team reviewing all the activities that need to be done. The frequently used tool for this analysis is a spaghetti diagram, where all the processes are mapped on a chart that quickly becomes very ugly! The ensuing remediation process has various teams streamlining all the processes and eliminating all the non-value-added steps and processes. And so this resource- intensive, non-value-added report quickly got a fork stuck in it. I saw lights go on in the audience as they began to consider what other traditional activities could be added to the "stick a fork in it" list. These critters are comfortable friends that are hard to eliminate. In an intense, resource constrained, immediate information organization, the NVA must go.

In our fast-paced generation, we need to have both to-do lists and stop-doing lists. What are your comfort-zone, resource-robbing friends that need to stop draining your capabilities?

The Doc

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