Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Zero – Incident Rate Reality

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?

The Doc 

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