What is a good incident rate goal? Whenever this topic is brought up there seems to be an emotional sparring that goes on about:
- The futility of setting zero as a goal versus
- Accepting the inevitability that somewhere along the line someone will get hurt, so why live in a fantasy world?
A few careers back I had responsibility for manufacturing engineering where an almost identical debate was endlessly waged over whether or not an organization could achieve zero downtime. Likewise it was emotional and agenda-driven by the sparring combatants who never really gave into nor accepted their adversary’s premise, no matter what was said. I came away with a threefold view point; black, white and gray:
- Black; Bad things happen and you just need to do your job diligently and accept what comes your way
- White; No matter what happens I will strive for delivering excellence with every tool I can utilize
- Gray; Why debate this inane emotionally packed issue? Just go do the best you can and live with what comes your way
In that career my mantra became: Can we achieve zero downtime for a day? For a week? For a month? For a quarter? For…….? It was the continuous improvement challenge; the relentless pursuit of zero downtime:
- What did we learn from developing permanent fixes
- How could we apply these lessons to similar issues
- Then to those that were loosely aligned
- Then to develop and reinforce a culture that kept pushing the envelope in a relentless pursuit of a culture of zero downtime that everyone in the organization lived and supported
And so you have my read on the endless zero injury/zero incident rate debate. What good does it do to set a goal and then celebrate the achievement of a “satisfactory level of injuries?” You can’t possibly win this kind of debate. Why not instead begin a culture that keeps achieving the next threshold and then moving that achievement to the next level, relentlessly?