Monday, April 27, 2015

Root bound – safety culture growth

“To be is to do.”   Socrates
“To do is to be.”    Plato

“Do-be-do-be-do”   Frank Sinatra
I have recently been reading some of the works of Dr. Paul Hiebert, who studied the types of culture we are likely to encounter as we interact with groups of people.  He commented that there were two types of cultures; “bounded set” and “centered set.”  A bounded set is more rigid and often blocks the acceptance of anything from cultures outside its own.  For this bounded group, there are things which must never be done and specific things that must always be done if a person is to fit into a bounded culture.  The centered set is much more relational and fluid, which makes it easier to enter and be accepted.

Transforming a culture is a relational process.  These two different culture sets are guided by their own set of principles and regulations.  In the centered set, cultures relational transformation is not near as tidy as a bounded set guided by a series of regulations.  In a bounded set, we are led to believe if we follow a set of rules we will be ok.

In a bounded set culture, image is everything.  But when the way things appear is all that is important, the way things really are seems to never get addressed.  The by-word for the bounded set is “behave.”  By following the rules, people think they are ok, but this is far from the truth. 

When performance fails, guilt and rebellion follow.  People try to cope with the stress and weariness of being unable to keep on the bounded set treadmill.    The solution is not more rules and regulations.  Rather, relationships and engagement of the culture (team) members allows them to work through the issues the next set of regulations just can’t solve. 

Are rules needed?  Of course, but so is flexibility.  This flexibility of a centered set culture allows our creative abilities to engage in creative problem solving for what another series of “just do this” mentality won’t solve.  When it comes to human nature realities in the workplace, or home, both culture set characteristics are needed.  What areas of your safety and work performance can be improved by going beyond a bound set of rules and regulations and creatively engaging the drive and talents of your people?

The Doc

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pebbles – Safety annoyances

We all have disappointments in life.  Often these are also distractions that take our mind and focus off the important things we need to do on and off the job.  Recently my son called me when he received the annual review after his first year with a new organization; he only got a “meets expectations” instead of the “exceeds expectations” he had hoped for, which caused his personal mindset to be in the pits. .  We had a long series of discussions over the next couple of days as I shared some similar and non similar events which had affected my outlook over the years.  In each case, these disappointing circumstances turned out to be minor setbacks and annoyances that did not make any real difference in what I was doing in the near term.  They were like pebbles in my shoe.  That is except when I allowed the pebbles in my shoe to become boulders in my path as I became mentally unglued, reacting as if they were a big deal.  On rare occasions, I made career altering decisions, which delivered some painful realities I soon regretted.  I should have taken the pebble out of my shoe and continued to focus on what was truly important, rather than letting this moment in time distraction become such a big deal. 

Every job I have ever had has come with some small aggravating details I’d rather not be bothered with.  And yet each organization has these non value added pebbles that must be lived with.  As they arrive at my moment in time, the correct thing for me to do is to stop, remove the pebble, and then get on with life.  Complaining may give me a momentary mentally satisfying emotional release, but coming unglued over these annoyances only makes it worse, not better. 

As safety pros, we all get to do some required tasks which just seem to be a big waste of time.  When in reality, they are just a little waste of time in the bigger scheme of things that we are being called to do.  So I have learned to “just get over it” rather than making short term reactive decisions that sink my long term ability to accomplish what is truly important.  Are you being bothered with some pebbles in your shoe you need to pluck and chuck and then get on with what makes a difference in the lives of those we are called to serve and save?

The Doc   

Monday, April 13, 2015

Six sigma calculations – value added safety statistics

The concept of using error rates for safety in a six sigma methodology has interest to the continuous improvement community.  Interest yes, but functionality not so much.  The six sigma approach started in the quality statistics realm as a means to measure first pass yield where sigma is the standard deviation measurement from a normal value.  In the quality world, reducing the deviation from a standard (desired) value is a measure of quality improvement of the normal or desired value. 

·         One sigma a value of 68.5% first pass perfect quality yield

·         Two sigma – 98.5%

·         Three sigma – 99.7%

·         Four sigma – 99.97%

·         Five sigma – 99.997%

·         Six sigma – 99.9997% perfect or approximately three parts per million error rate

At the beginning of the quality revolution there was a significant effort to get to three sigma performance, or three defects out of each 1000 items produced.  As more emphasis was placed on perfection, many organizations realized how difficult it was to be perfect with all the subcomponents in an assembly especially as each error has a multiplier effect on the final product quality level. 

So what about six sigma injury levels? 

·         Our North American statistics are based on 200,000 hours, or 100 years of labor (100 people each working a year).  If this is extrapolated to a million hours (500 labor years) six sigma performance would be three total lost or decreased output hours for that amount of time.  Here the focus is on what is not desired (injuries), is totally reactive and gives no input as to what can be done to reduce injuries.  This kind of six sigma safety indicator is difficult to measure or tabulate and even if it can be done consistently, still delivers no information that can improve injury performance.

·         The focus on lagging indicators gets even more difficult as an organization’s injury rate improves (lessens).  There are fewer and fewer errors (hours of injuries) to count and the concept of diminishing returns quickly suggests changing focusing to leading indicators like safety accountabilities, which help to prevent injuries.  There are literally thousands of possibilities for leading indicator activities (those associated with upstream processes that deliver downstream results).  This kind of leading activity can be measured, reinforced and tabulated in safety dashboard indicators, which actually make a positive difference in the quest to reduce injuries.  As these leading activities become ingrained in the organization’s safety culture, new safety accountabilities can be added to refresh and renew the relentless efforts needed to eliminate injuries in the workplace.  The bottom line; move away from injury rate measurements and focus on what it takes to help reduce injury rates (safety accountabilities across the organizations personnel). 

The Doc   

Monday, April 6, 2015

Heraclitus – Tomorrow’s safety challenges

Recently, I was working with a mining organization that spiked employee interest as a way to improve the required compliance training that seems endless and repetitive.  They use safety trivia, such as a football game analogy where each team gets a few yards for answering safety questions over the course of the class.  The first team to 100 yards receives bragging rights and a token prize.  To add a challenge, each team can have one “Hail Mary” pass worth 35 yards if they get the correct answer to a difficult question.  They asked me the question, “Where and when were explosives first used in mining?”  Hungary in 1627 was a pass out of my reach, but I stumped them and they dropped my pass with “What do the initials “H. W.” stand for in H.W. Heinrich’s name?”* 

Or how about “What advice did the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus say that can guide us in safety?”  Heraclitus is known for (ok known obscurely for) “You can’t step twice in the same river.”  This raised a big “Huh?” out of the crowd and we got down to being serious about his meaning that ‘everything changes’ so we must be engaged in improving what we do to reduce injuries.  The same ol’ same ol’ just isn’t effective in the long run.  If there is to be improvement, we will be forced to balance today’s reality with tomorrow’s culture. 

Safety is serious work for this particular customer as their Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) of 0.45 in a very dangerous industry is still not good enough for them to stop considering tomorrow’s safety culture reality challenges. The mining industry is well known for potential dangers and it crosses many global cultures, which is why the mining industry is always on the lookout for how to improve and overcome the challenges of its safety “river.” How are you doing considering the new rivers your safety reality will require you to step into in the present and in the future? 

*Herbert Wagner

The Doc     

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