Recently, our group was assisting a heavy manufacturing organization that commonly used Total Quality Manufacturing (TQM) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) techniques. They had some small Continuous Improvement (CI) Teams that engaged in solving the front line day-to-day difficulties which commonly occur in operations of organizations worldwide.
Our Zero-Incident Performance (ZIP™) Process includes resolving safety issues by engaging teams of employees in a structured problem solving process. One discussion quickly went toward why the front line CI Team concept struggles with delivering in depth solutions to more complex safety problems. At the end of our discussion, we concluded that day-to-day problems are kind of like swatting the flies which buzz around and need to be eliminated. A small front line employee group comes together and relatively rapidly solves the equipment related issues that typically occur with TQM and TPM. Our thoughts were that TPM-type maintenance teams dealt with about 90% equipment and about 10% human interaction. The TQM approach within the quality environment was felt to be more like 70-80% equipment/product-related process issues and 20-30% human interaction.
We also agreed that in safety, solving the day-to-day, reactive level one and level two equipment and condition issues occur relatively quickly with a fairly classic CI Team approach. However, once the hardware weaknesses are mostly in control, the focus quickly shifts to about 90% people/behavior realities which cause the overwhelming majority of workplace incidents/injuries.
Herein is the issue for the front line CI Team approach. In safety, culture and behavior process issues require far more time and involvement intensity than is available with the typical 1-2 hour CI Team event. These more in depth safety process Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW) teams are monitored and their progress is adjusted by a cross-functional, cross-organizational steering team. In turn the RIW teams are made up of hourly, supervision and upper management personnel who are trained on how to do the more intensive error proofing of upstream human processes. This results in error proofed processes with well thought out and tested people components which help deliver sustainable downstream low incident number realities.
The RIW cross-functional teams typically meet off and on over a 60-90 day time frame to develop and proof a complete solution safety process which includes components like: pilot trials, accountabilities that help deliver solutions, practical accountability based audits, policy statements allied with the processes, cookbooks as to how the total organization delivers the interpersonal results and….. This is way beyond what a 1-2 hour CI Team can accomplish. And, likewise, so are the upstream and downstream results noticeably beyond that available via day-to-day fly swatting. However, both approaches are necessary to get a zero-incident safety culture to occur and to be sustainable in the long term.