Please Note: When I’m speaking with OH&S Consultants/Experts a common question is often discussed. It is, “How do we get the right behaviours out of the people who work in our organizations… including the Management Team?” The following article is what I often share with them to frame a discussion. Feel free to share these ideas with your peers and just as importantly, with your Management Team. Perhaps we can spark a larger discussion about measuring what really matters in Safety Management and move away from the illogical and impractical method of measuring safety by the lack of injury reports. So here goes… I hope following two part article sparks some ideas!
Part One – Expectations & Processes
”Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” Pearson’s Law
Safety management is often out of step with the other parts of our businesses. This can be corrected if we make safety management look MORE like the production of goods and services. The more we can align safety process and measures with other business-like processes the more successful we’ll be in reaching Safety Excellence in our businesses. There’s a huge disconnect in measuring what doesn’t happen to us as proof that something else exists. Experiencing “no injuries recorded during a measured period of time” does not prove the existence of safety. We all know that because we’ve all been unsafe and not been hurt. To make it worse, this measure is historic and doesn’t allow us to do anything about it. So “luck” measures don’t sit very well in business discussions. Frankly they are frustrating. Shifting safety measures away from the traditional “lack of loss” measures to one aligned with how management normally measures their progress towards their goals will help us in significant ways. Let’s look at how.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
Using the classic four functions of management, Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling, it’s important to this discussion that “Preventing” isn’t one of the four fundamental management functions.
Develop, implement and monitor activities and the resulting outcomes is how most businesses accomplish their management functions. Measures we choose need to be about things a company does to produce an outcome. Who in your organization is planning around making the workplaces safe? That question needs to be answered through “activity” measures. How many planning sessions are held monthly, what is produced at these planning sessions, what initiatives are being implemented? These questions can and do form the kinds of reports your management team is used to seeing. They see them all the time when measuring productivity performance. We need to actually measure the creation of safety to be aligned with other business functions. Most management teams are NOT focused on the prevention of the “lack of profit.”
The fundamental two questions, which need to be asked and answered, are:
1. What are we doing to create safety (behaviours, culture, environment and accountability)
2. What are we getting for those efforts (movement toward the goals)
Most businesses set similar types of goals and do similar activities to reach those goals. Raw Numbers, Progress (% Complete) Change towards a target (% Change over last period) are usually seen as reasonable measures to help management manage the process of creating production. These will also work in safety management if we keep in mind that we aren’t here to “prevent injuries”; we are here to “create safety.”
Here are some ideas about how to create KPI without the reliance on the use of injury data:
1. Identify the top work processes in your organization. These are the primary work processes that are essential to operational efficiency and effectiveness. When performed safely these processes will ensure the organization meets their production goals. Remember, we aren’t preventing, we are CREATING.
2. Create a process flow chart of the selected processes. Diagram/list each process from beginning to end. Include all of the employees and management staff who are involved in the successful completion of the selected process. Ensure that the activities to create safety are listed. For example if your tasks include entry into confined spaces you’ll need to list all of the activities (training, equipment checks, work permits, inspections, audits, etc.) that create a safe entry.
3. Create a KPI for each step in the process. The KPI measures the completion of the selected activities and the effectiveness of the process. KPIs should be developed that measure quality and quantity. For example: What % of planned equipment checks was performed? Based on a quality measure, how well were they performed?
4. Track the KPIs on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Learning a bit about Statistical Process Control may be useful. Monitor changes in the KPI to help predict and manage work flow over time.
5. Compare the safety creation KPIs with other business KPIs and link these process measures to outcome measure of productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. (AVOID linking them to injuries or the lack of injuries). Remember we are not preventing, we are CREATING.
Nesting Measurable Activities
There is no better way to keep a boss interested in what is happening than holding them accountable for the activities that create the expected results. I call this “nesting safety activities”. Here’s an example:
A senior manager I know holds his direct reports responsible to report to him “safety activities” that have created safety on a weekly basis. Some of these reported activities are selected to receive special recognition in the way of a personal phone call to the person (or persons) responsible for the activity. The discussion starts with a personal thank you from the senior leader noting that they are personally appreciative of the employees’ actions to make their place of work a safer place to be. This activity has gone on for years with very positive results. The message is that our safety process is personal, serious and appreciated.
The most important part of this example is that the various levels of the organization are involved in doing and measuring safety activities that create safety. They aren’t relying on the lack of injuries to drive their attention to, and interest in, safety management. It’s about catching people doing things right! By the way, this employer has very low injury numbers as a result of their hard work. The best part about that result is they know WHY their injury rates are low!
I hope that has helped you rethink how to manage and report your safety progress towards Safety Excellence. Next time we’ll discuss more detailed examples of Nesting Safety Activities.
A fitting final thought for Part One of our discussion from a world-class business thought leader:
“You can only live life looking forward.” – Warren Buffett
Part Two – Making It Work
In Part One I explored the need to make the management of HSE look more like how we manage the process of creating the production of products and services within our organizations. I believe that aligning these processes makes it easier for everyone to implement the necessary steps to reach safety excellence since they are already used to doing it for the organization. If there’s a common failure in achieving excellence in safety, this is it… “Safety management looks different than the way the organization manages other functions.”
If we examine how almost all work gets done in organizations we’ll find that we start with a Mission, Vision, Values and/or Purpose statement of commitment and then go about making those desires happen. How they actually turn into reality is through human activities that are usually set as objectives and measured as they are being implemented. The management of HSE should be absolutely no different. It will take “nested activities” throughout the entire organization to get this done. All levels of the organization, from the CEO to the hourly paid employees, must be engaged in the process exactly like they are engaged to create the products and services the company is trying to create.
Responsibility is assigned from the top down and accountability flows from the bottom up. What we are responsible for in an organization is typically communicated through job descriptions and policy and procedure documents. What we are held accountable for is typically clarified through objective setting with our supervisors and our daily discussions and progress reports.
Here is the first opportunity to make HSE management look more like how we really manage other functions. The vision needs to be about CREATING not PREVENTING. I’ve written extensively about NOT using the absence of injury as a target. It’s a very poor way to measure the creation of a safe and healthy workplace. If we created safety in our workplaces the logical outcome will be low or no injuries. Our goals need to be in line with production goals. We do not normally measure our success in other areas of production by counting what is NOT produced by our actions. We normally measure what IS produced and how it is being produced. So let’s do that, let’s use what we already know about managing well and apply this to the goal of creating safety excellence.
Nested Safety Activities & Behaviours
The key to measuring process and results is to fully understand what is being measured and what activities we are responsible for conducting. Mature safety cultures require this understanding throughout the organization. Each management level understands what their individual activities are and they are measured on those activities to ensure that any “rewards” for good performance are based on them being a part of creating the outcomes. Here’s a sample of how it can work.
The CEO is ultimately responsible for the creation of a safe and healthy work environment at their company. Activities that they can be held accountable for can include:
• Ensuring that all of the direct report VPs have properly budgeted for safety and health within their operating budgets
• Ensuring that the importance of safety and health creating activities is documented in all job descriptions and performance appraisal systems to a significant weighting (example 25% of at risk pay compensation package).
• Ensure that the importance of safety and health in the company’s activities is communicated from the senior management level through personal communications and company events with employees.
Of course these are only examples of what can be done but the key is to weigh heavily on the activities that create safety and not the results. When properly selected, activity measures will drive positive outcomes. If not, then different activities need to be conducted. There is a direct cause and effect relationship with creating safety and having very low negative outcome numbers (injuries, related costs, equipment damage, etc.). Logically if we are working safely then undesired negative outcomes (injures, damage and resulting costs) should be the results of creating safety. What is best about this logical approach that the confidence will be high that we created the results and that they didn’t just happen as a result of being lucky.
Moving down through the organization, the direct reporting positions to the CEO now have to nest their activities to support the accomplishment of the CEO. These activities can directly make the CEOs activities happen within their area of responsibility or create their own specific safety and health related activity that will be further supported by their own direct reports (Manager, Directors, and Supervisors).
• Ensure that safety and health creating activities are properly budgeted for (sufficient time for the activities and sufficient financial support for compliance and improvements) in their area of responsibility including training, committee meetings.
• Ensure that three employee safety and health “town hall” employee events are scheduled annually with attendance of the CEO and presentations about the progress of safety and health creating activities
• Ensure that workplace tours are conducted quarterly emphasizing the importance of creating safety and health through management and employee observed activities.
This nesting of activities, if continued throughout the organization, will drive the creation of safety and health in any organization because it makes it important enough to do by demonstrating that it is being measured. In addition, a boss cannot meet their goals without the support of their subordinate’s activities being completed. This is an exact parallel to the way organizations create the productions of goods and services. Through the nesting of objectives and activities from the front line worker up through to the CEO, people are all “intradependant” on each other to ensure their common goals are met.
Working down through the organization, further nesting of activities will include activities such as first line supervisors becoming responsible and measured on the number of “ride alongs” they do with their drivers observing their safe behaviours and discussing the importance of the safe and healthy creation of the products and services. We can have front line workers be responsible for doing inspections of their work tools and ensuring that broken tools are repaired and/or replaced.
If we want to create companies that do their work in safe and healthy ways, we need to measure that the people doing the work to create the products and services are doing their jobs that way. The “lack of injury measures” does not accomplish this. What really measures safety is observing the way in which we do our work. I hope that gives you some ideas on how this can work in your organization. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about motivation by Aubrey C. Daniels
“People do what they do because of what happens when they do it.”