Monday, June 30, 2014

Fly Swatter – Fixing Safety Problems

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.

The Doc            

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kangaroos and Emus – Safety Directions

Two of Australia’s indigenous creatures, kangaroos and emus, have something in common – they seldom move backward.  Kangaroos, because of the shape of their body and the length of their strong tail, can bounce along with forward movement, but they cannot easily shift into reverse.  Emus can run fast on their strong legs, but the joints in their knees seem to make backward movement difficult.  Both animals appear on Australia’s coat of arms as a symbol that the nation is to be ever moving forward and making progress. 

There is a similar approach to the life of a safety pro.  I cannot think of a time when I have arrived at a conclusion of safety excellence with nothing left to do.  One thing we have in common is a journey that doesn’t concern itself with what is behind us.  Rather, we are to strive toward a goal of those things which are ahead.  While it is wise to learn from the past, we shouldn’t live in the past.  We cannot redo or undo the past, but we can press forward to serve our profession’s focus on protecting the lives of those we serve today and in the future.  Ours is a journey forward.

The Doc    

Monday, June 16, 2014

Big Whoop – Safety excellence awards

Many private and public organizations publicize significant accomplishment of downstream safety measures, such as the reduction of injury rates.  I am not fond of this recognition, but I do acknowledge that celebrating “an adequate number of injuries” seems to be a current weakness of our profession.  I am thankful that there are fewer organizations handing out monetary rewards for reducing injuries.   Monetary incentives for improved injury rate performance often lead to hiding injuries which, in turn, can keep organizations from resolving the root cause of safety incidents.

A number of years ago, I hired safety pioneer and legend Dr. Dan Petersen to assist my employer’s organization in developing a world class safety culture.  This company prided itself as being number one or two in all the markets in which it competed.  This kind of lofty goal kept their leadership and employees focused on what it took to dominate competition in a rugged marketplace with ever-shifting and ever-escalating high demands.  After a gut-wrenching fatality, upper management discovered they were in the bottom quartile for safety performance in their industry, obviously a disconnect with the brand image of being number one or two.

That led to a discussion on what is world class safety performance.  Dr. Dan defined world class safety performance, back in the 1980s, as an organization that achieved a recordable injury frequency (RIF) of 1.0 to 1.2 and a lost time rate of 10% of the recordable rate, or about 0.1.  When asked how he decided on that number, Dan answered that it represented the downstream indicators of the best 10% of his customers.  Fast forward to our current era, Caterpillar Safety Services’ top 10% of customers have a RIF of 0.3 to 0.7 and go multiple years without a lost time injury.

More and more global companies have had to employ non-traditional continuous improvement employee engagement techniques to reduce costs, improve productivity and customer service while eliminating quality defects.  This engagement of employees in a relentless pursuit of zero incidents in core operations areas is an engine that helps deliver number one or two industry performance for a globally dominant organization. 

These same companies generally recognize there is less and less to be gained in the traditional operations areas of cost, quality and customer service.  However, when they strategically look down the road 5-10 years, they also recognize that excellent safety performance is a necessity in their future state corporate culture. 

  • It is ever more difficult to find, train and retain high quality employees. 

  • Non-value added medical and legal costs associated with injuries are all necessities for them to eliminate. 

  • Government intervention that results from injuries and other safety related events is unacceptable.

  • Press exposure for safety disasters is too painful and needs to be avoided.


Put all this together and it is very apparent that getting the Big Whoop Award for average, or even 50% of industry average, injury performance will not be a part of the future state for excellent company metrics.  If they are to be number one or number two in all that they do, Big Whoop mediocrity for average performance will continue to become a part of their past.  Traditional regulation and observation technologies are not robust enough to stay on the leading edge of an ever-demanding decrease in injury numbers. 

As you know, I am not a fan of downstream injury rate numbers.  And thus, our definition of world class safety is along the lines of an organization which is actively involved and engaging its employees at all levels in a relentless pursuit of a zero-incident safety culture.  No matter what the downstream indicators are, globally excellent companies will improve each year by engaging their people with this kind of initiative.  Is it time for you to engage in more modern safety improvement technologies that will help deliver the future state safety injury metrics you and your organization need to accomplish? 

No more Big Whoop safety mediocrity awards!

The Doc

Monday, June 2, 2014

Leadership – Characteristics of good safety leaders

Who knows how many thousands of books and articles have been written about leadership? In contrast, blog articles written on leadership typically have 500 or fewer words.  So, here is a short version that deals with my interpretation of material taught at West Point and applied in a practical manner by many individuals (with editorial license here and there on my part).  Leadership deals with Capacity, Character and Competence.

Capacity:  I seldom see capacity on a list of leadership traits.  And yet, it is extremely important to be competent and effective in attributes like processing the information we receive, having good discernment, being able to carry and execute significant responsibility and being able to endure and excel under heavy demands and pressure.  These are all attributes associated with the capacity of an effective leader.

Character:  Who is the real you? According to legendary basketball coach John Wooden, your reputation is what you are perceived to be by others, but your character is what you really are.  You are the only one who knows your true character with respect to important traits such as integrity, flexibility, respect, care and responsiveness.  You can fool others, but you can’t fool yourself.  How liberating is it to exchange a false reputation for the true character that will make a difference in the lives of those with whom you interact.  Do you have a disconnect between the two?  If so, what should you do to deliver true character versus some outward actions which deliver a false reputation?

Competence:  We all possess Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes; characteristics that deliver competence.

  • Knowledge is what we have studied.  

  • Skills deal with the knowledge we have practiced to a point that delivers excellence in that skill attribute.  Additionally, there are some soft-side skills which help deliver competence—things like interpersonal skills and project/task management. 

  • Attitude deals with how we show up and apply our knowledge and skills in the workplace.  We all know how differences in attitude before, during and after the task affect others and the outcomes of what we and our associates accomplish.    

Good leadership makes a huge difference in performance.  How can we use the above concepts to help ourselves and our organizations perform better?

 The Doc  

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