Monday, May 26, 2014

Needs – Improving safety communications

From time to time when I am introduced in public, I get questioned about the three initials that follow my name—PhD.  People in my community seldom know I have such a degree.  The few that do know sometimes give me their humorous definitions of what the three letters mean to them: Piled Higher and Deeper, Push Harder Dummy, Post Hole Digger and the like.  You may very well have some others to add to this humorous list.  


I notice I have a tendency to over explain what I am saying to the people in the audience.  “Mike, please just give me the Cliff Notes version” is not an uncommon comment.  Recently, I spent some time working at UTEP with Roger Gonzalez, the department head of Leadership Engineering at this Texas university.  Roger has quite a number of academic credentials that go way beyond my PhD.  As members of the group we were working with began to wax eloquently, Roger piped in with some words of wisdom, “Tell me what I need to know versus what you know.”


This caused me to reflect on all the conference presentations, project report outs, safety committee meetings, briefings, and one-on-one talks that we have all endured for endless hours.  It also caused me to think about the safety professional discussions that have often gone way beyond what is needed.  This kind of ad nausea download truly decreases our effectiveness when it comes to the needed, value-added safety messages we must deliver. 


Before you or I launch into the next long monologue diatribe, let us consider and deliver what is needed rather than piling it higher and deeper.


The Doc      

Monday, May 19, 2014

Itch – Solving safety issues

As I was growing up, my Papa would sit me down to discuss reality, philosophies and other aspects of life.  He would often pose questions that forced me to think through to a conclusion.  As I grew older, the questions he posed grew in complexity and difficulty.  Inevitably, there would come a time when I was stumped and took a guess. I, of course, didn’t always guess correctly. 


At this crossroads, he didn’t belittle me for an improper answer or give me the correct answer. Instead, Papa would engage in an interactive process that built my ability to solve the evermore complex issues he posed, and those I would inevitably face  later in life.  His technique was to ask, “How does this scratch the itch?”  The resulting give and take discussions not only lead to a plausible solution, but it also taught me the value of digging deeper and working with others to deliver stronger solutions.


As safety leaders, we are often confronted with situations that are challenging to answer and require real depth to get to the correct solution.  I have found it helpful to ask how the initial solution that is posed truly scratches the itch that needs to be addressed and fixed.  The resultant thought process and discussions always seem to deliver a better scratch to the itch we need to resolve.


The Doc      

Monday, May 12, 2014

Goals – Delivering what you can accomplish

There are volumes written on effective goals and how to accomplish them. From a safety perspective, many organizations struggle immensely with setting and achieving effective safety goals that help reduce injuries.  Downstream goals, focused on injury rates, are a reactive approach to what you don’t want to occur.  Upstream goals are based on activities which reduce the probability of injuries occurring. 


The point of the above paragraph is to encourage you to set goals for things you have control over. Focusing on goals within reach will help you achieve the objectives and goals you do not have control over.  What can you and your organization do today, or in the near future,   that will help you deliver a lesser injury rate?  Focusing on reacting to injury rates does not do this.  It is the upstream processes and associated activities which deliver downstream performance excellence that count.  This is true whether it be in cost, quality, customer service or safety. 


Keep your goals focused, using appropriate, related activities, on what you can control which, in turn, will help you deliver the objectives you do not have control over.


The Doc     

Monday, May 5, 2014

Computer – Delivering a workable safety solution

What does it take for a computer to help us do our jobs better and enjoy our lives more?  A simplified answer that doesn’t go into nano-detail is that a computer requires both hardware and software to be functional.  Expanding this concept a little could lead to a discussion about the hardware items in life that enable us to move forward (automobiles, homes, computers, etc.) and the software concepts (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control, etc.) which make life more enjoyable.


However, this is a safety article and there is an application of hardware and software that makes sense to me.  Our hardware deals with the basics of regulations and best practices that are fundamental to reducing risks in the workplace.  Without the basics in place, people will continue to get injured.  With this in mind, software is needed to deliver a functional, viable safety culture.  Safety software deals with real aspects of safety that engage people in living a zero-incident safety culture.  How do we communicate, inspire, engage, live important accountabilities, measure performance and injury-reducing safety activities? 


The hardware pieces of an effective safety culture are fairly well-defined and have been for a number of years.  The software aspects are becoming the differentiating characteristics between a calculator concept of safety and an effective, viable safety culture that delivers a relentless pursuit of zero incidents.  The approach used by Caterpillar Safety Services is a combination of safety hardware and software that is applied globally to deliver a culture that eliminates injuries on and off the job.  If your safety culture computer is sputtering, take a look at what is available on safety.cat.com.


The Doc            

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