The Tour de France and EHS management would, at first glance, seem to have little in common.
When I was first introduced to the concept of the “peloton,” a word that describes the clustered formation of cyclists in a road race, I was a bit surprised. This is a tactic used by cyclists to save energy and work as a team to win a race. But it raised a fundamental question in my mind: why would a competitor forego individual success in a race?
A peloton moves along as a bunched-up group with each rider continually making slight adjustments in response to the things that adjacent riders do, particularly the leader of the pack. Road racing is very much a team sport, so with the peloton, riders individually apply tactics to achieve success for the team. Team members might ride in a formation that shields their principal rider from fatigue due to wind resistance, until the right moment when that rider seizes the opportunity to win the race near the end during an all-out sprint.
It got me thinking about how the peloton concept might be used by EHSQ professionals seeking to work as a team to achieve compliance with vast regulatory frameworks.
An EHS manager’s team might be spread across multiple countries and throughout various departments. Dozens of discrete processes might require oversight and a plethora of reporting obligations to government agencies may be mandated. Individual team members have different roles; regulatory analysts, Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) leaders, scientists, coders, project managers, etc. Just like the cyclist in a peloton, each member plays a vital role in the overall objective of the team – getting to the finish line and, in the case of EHS management, achieving regulatory compliance.
So, let’s consider the concept and spirit of the peloton and the guiding principles of it in terms of potential benefits for individuals and the team as a whole:
- When a peloton leader slows down, other team members reduce their speed, so the leader can recover. In the world of EHS compliance, all pieces need to be in place. For instance, you can’t move forward without understanding which regulations apply to your facilities or, similarly, without having a QA/QC process in place. If one process falls behind or one person on your team is struggling, then you need to hit the pause button until solutions are found and/or people recover.
- When the peloton leader crashes, another team member may give up his or her bike to the leader. Good team members are always willing to lend a hand, offer assistance, and look to support the end goal rather than simply achieving individual success. Let’s say that the team manager in charge of capturing, tracking, and verifying emissions data is struggling to verify necessary information. Should other members do nothing and simply wait for the individual to do the detective work in isolation, solve the issue, and rectify the situation? A better and more productive approach would be to step up, increase team energy for a short period in the collective, and solve as a group.
- Pelotons recognize the need for a respite during a long race to get to the finish. Sometimes, a team member needs a break because he/she may be struggling, perhaps in data management or in understanding a regulatory requirement in the context of the organization. The perception may be that another team member’s work is being impacted, causing delay and frustration all the way down the line. But rushing under pressure exposes the entire peloton to unnecessary risk. Instead, why not strategize ahead of time and agree upon an identifiable signal that all members understand will trigger a regroup or pause? A pause to provide support and additional resources may lead to the breakthrough that’s needed.
- Peloton strategy adjusts depending upon race conditions. Sometimes it is sunny, but other times it’s rainy and the road is slick. If cyclists don’t adjust the way they ride, the result can be disastrous. It is the same with EHSQ compliance. New regulations are finalized, others are withdrawn, and conditions are ever changing. Team members must adjust to new realities and have a plan for mid-course corrections when necessary. Pay attention to forecasts from reliable sources – always!
- The peloton celebrates success. When rounding the Champs-Élysées, the peloton might crack open some bubbly. Good teams celebrate success together. It’s not to suggest a celebration should involve champagne, but team morale is important and achieving a shared goal should be celebrated.
While there’s no race to win as far as EHSQ teams are concerned, applying the general tactics and collective thinking of a peloton might help everyone successfully ride headlong towards the shared finish line of compliance; and that’s what makes the peloton mindset is a winning one.
On Environment is a twice monthly post by Jessica Sarnowski, Intelex’s Global Compliance Content Lead.
As Intelex’s Global Compliance Content Lead, EHSQ Content Strategy, Jessica drives overall content strategy, with a particular focus on overseeing the delivery of high-quality compliance content within the EHSQ Alliance.
Responsible for identifying and cultivating valuable compliance content for EHSQ professionals, Jessica fosters engagement in the EHSQ Alliance by working with experts in the field.
Jessica has over 10 years of public and private sector experience in environmental policy and law. Jessica received her Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School and Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law from The George Washington University Law School. You can follow Jessica on LinkedIn by clicking HERE.
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