Monday, February 25, 2013

The Big 5 v 2.0 – Evaluating job risks


Most of us have heard something about the Big 5.  What comes to mind when you hear this phrase?  Most people have a vision of a safari in Africa where you get an authentic, in- the- wild chance to see Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo. You think of an exciting experience that you will remember forever.

My dear, departed friend and fellow safety professional, Todd Britten, spoke of his Big 5 as:
1.       Faith
2.       Family
3.       Health
4.       Job
5.       Country

Todd would go through his list and then challenge his safety culture trainees to list their Big 5 and reflect on how their and their coworker’s lives would change if there was an injury.  It was and is a powerful message no matter what your Big 5 are. 

There is at least one more Big 5 in the safety world. As I was working in the underground mines of South Africa, one of the companies had a list of Fatal Risk Protocols; the 11 things that could kill you in a hard rock mine.  They taught their people the rules of engagement for these fatal few and then expected the miners and management to follow these safety rules without exception. Time and again I have noticed a parallel in industry; it seems each industrial work position has at least five situations that can be very dangerous.  These must be defined, analyzed, improved, trained, measured with respect to personal accountability and then given feedback to workplace employees and supervision. 

This is an effective and useful team resolution exercise; what is each group’s Big 5 and what are they doing about them to live a zero incident workplace and lifestyle?

The Doc  

Monday, February 18, 2013

ROI – What to focus on in the world of never-ending things to do


Over the years I have worked with a number of organizations needing lots of improvement. When we honestly wrote down all they needed to improve, the list was several flip charts long. Despair would set in as they recognized there was too much to do and not enough time, money or personnel to do all the work that was glaring them in the face. Somewhere along the line, we came up with the concept of a simplified ROI Matrix that allowed us to prioritize the challenges– using no math whatsoever.

To use this concept, the facilitator makes a 2x2 chart that shows cost versus effectiveness. After some lighthearted give and take, we are able to determine what high cost and high effectiveness looks like to the front line dominated organization. The facility manager gets put on the spot and has to answer the question of how much funding they can locally sign off for and what kind of return they would expect for that amount of money. A typical example would be something like “$10,000 and the elimination of at least one medical injury.”  We now have the upper limits set for the ROI Matrix team exercise. 


The upper right hand quadrant is the high-cost, high-effect solution. This usually involves a fair amount of capital, like purchasing new equipment. The upper left hand quadrant is the high-cost, low-effect zone, in other words, "I thought I was doing the right job by spending this money, but indeed, I was not." I call these two the “engineer zones” because generally high-cost items are more technically challenging in nature and engineers often like to work on technically challenging projects. The lower left zone is the low-cost, low-effect solution. I affectionately call that the "bean counter" or “accountant zone.”  A common paradigm deals with money people seemingly being interested in cheap, not necessarily effective, solutions. The lower right low-cost, high-effect quadrant is the “endless kaizen zone” (“kaizen” is a Japanese word that translates to small changes forever, or continuous improvement).

As the team focuses on the many potential solutions to its problems, we put up an ROI Matrix. Each member of the team talks about a particular solution that interests them. The group then engages in an energetic discussion, as to both cost and effectiveness. Examples could include things like; painting guard rails, launching an observation program, fixing a weak incident investigation system, etc. The team then places each one of the potential solutions in its appropriate location on the ROI Matrix. As this teamwork exercise progresses, it quickly becomes evident where to focus the scarce available resources. Thus the team uses a very effective visual mechanism for quickly sorting down to what is going to be worked on by the continuous improvement teams.

If you have too much to work on, with too little time and financial resources to do so, why not try this kind of ROI Matrix approach?

The Doc

Monday, February 11, 2013

CAE – A three-step process to improve safety

In both industry and safety my experience has been there are three important components to a strong, viable, high performance organization: Culture, Accountabilities and Engagement.

Culture: When working with industries I have been unable to find a good diagnostic that gives one a handle on the strengths, status quo and weakness of the overall organization. What has worked with many organizations is a series of interviews using open-ended questions that dig down into the employees’ personal opinions as to what the cultural realities seem to be. The questions deal with things like strengths, weaknesses, predominant focus, important personalities, what gets dropped and lived with and the like. 
In determining safety culture realities I prefer using Dr. Dan Petersen’s Safety Perception Survey. This statistically validated diagnostic survey very quickly uncovers what is good, what is not paid attention to, and what is broken in the safety culture. We often fill in this quantitative diagnostic with qualitative information on the safety culture by using similar open-ended interview questions. From the quantitative and qualitative information there is a pretty good picture of what the real culture issues are as well as strengths one can build on in the improvement process.

Accountabilities:  The accountabilities (activities) of the people responsible for the work are an absolute necessity for any organization to improve. This includes people at the top, the middle and the front line.  From an operations standpoint accountabilities for execs, middle managers, supervisors and workface employees are almost always well spelled out, though not always correct for the objectives of an organization.

Safety accountabilities are quite different. Here safety accountabilities are often not spelled out in much detail at all. Safety accountabilities become very fuzzy the higher up the organization one looks, causing good safety performance to suffer at each level of the organization.  The solution process begins with a serious effort by the people involved to carefully develop value added activities for important safety processes at all levels of the organization. This kicks off the Engagement phase of culture improvement.

Engagement: The father of the quality revolution, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, emphasized the engagement of the people doing the work as key to solving the problems encountered with the work being done, or as I have heard countless times; “You pay for the body and the mind comes for free.” The problem with grassroots approaches that do not actively involve the supervision, middle management and upper management levels is that the mental, physical and monetary capabilities of these important people slow down, or terminate, the engagement improvement process. The continuous improvement teams that deliver solutions to cultural problems need the engagement of a good cross section of the whole organization.  A part of this far-reaching engagement process must also include an appropriate amount of structure in the process of developing solutions. There are techniques that have been proven to be effective in bringing people together to solve issues they face. In the engagement process the team members must be trained so they don’t have to discover all by themselves what works, and what does not. 

For organizational and safety improvement it is important to use the three fundamentals of Culture, Accountabilities and Engagement. Are you employing this proven formula today?

The Doc

Monday, February 4, 2013

Leading indicators – Metrics that make a real difference


The search for viable leading indicators to replace lagging injury statistics is a hot safety topic these days. I do not believe we will ever be rid of injury rates as a metric used to judge safety performance. This is the way our safety world is wired, so I have learned to “just get over it.”  However, we are in agreement that measuring what we don’t want to occur (injuries) is not really an effective mechanism for gauging, or improving, our organization’s safety culture and its performance.

We have all looked into potential indicators dealing with near miss, safety work orders, safety contacts and the like. Many of you have put items like this into effect with varying levels of success and satisfaction. A recent discussion about this with one of my favorite safety cynics (Tony is safety director for a multi-billion dollar organization) delivered a statement to the effect that these potential leading indicators all really miss the mark. What is needed is involvement and engagement of the people who can make a difference in safety performance.

Tony went right back to Dr. Dan Petersen’s six criteria of safety excellence:
  • Upper management visible commitment to safety
  • Middle management active involvement in safety
  • Supervision being focused on safety performance in the same way they focus on operations deliverables
  • Active hourly participation in safety
  • Flexibility
  • Positive perception of safety by the workforce

One of the biggest challenges Tony faces to these simple safety culture necessities is achieving an on-going viable, visible commitment to safety by upper management personnel. These top level people have so many other tasks, so little time in front of the workforce and generally lack the safety and interpersonal backgrounds to be credible at the front line. Since “what gets measured is what gets done” on down the organization, upper management’s shortfalls cascade through the whole organization.

Tony’s need (and food for thought for you all) is accomplishable leading metrics that will engage upper management efforts in a meaningful way with respect to safety. Do you have both a process and a set of safety accountabilities for this level of your organization that deliver viable leading indicators which will cascade throughout your safety culture?

The Doc

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