Monday, December 8, 2014

Innovation or Violation – Improving safety carefully

Organizations vary in their tolerance for change.  A bureaucracy is usually very intolerant of change whereas a start up organization thrives on it.  Many mature organizations have studied what it takes to become and remain market leaders. These organizations   concluded that change is inevitable if they are to remain competitive with the others who are searching for ways to take market share away from the market leader.  The many knock off varieties of the Toyota Production System (TPS) come to mind as a structured approach to managing the relentless pursuit of excellence.    

Change agents I have met try to keep pushing the improvement envelope. All of them have a history of making some mistakes along the way.  Business literature has made comments in regards to the way innovators are treated. The literature states that punishment of occasional errors is not a good idea for those organizations that are in need of improvement.  How then does one take into account the inevitable errors for those who are leading the necessary efforts to improve the numerous processes which need adjustment for the many attributes of performance?

Innovation is seldom revolutionary.  Usually there are many small steps to improvements.  These must continue. However, there must also be careful consideration not to cross a critical barrier that takes innovation to violation, which could lead to potentially serious consequences.  The innovators are often blind to the cliff edge as they are focused on the next step of improvement. There is a need to consistently evaluate risks and make sure your well intentioned innovators do not violate significant risk barriers that must be in place. 

The Caterpillar safety improvement model has a small safety steering committee made up of executives, middle managers, front line supervisors and hourly technicians.  This group is tasked with both leading strategic safety improvements and evaluating innovative Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW) team solutions for appropriateness and implementation risk reality.  If your organization is involved with an ongoing improvement culture, you might consider forming a similar oversight group which can help prevent innovation from becoming violation.

The Doc

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