Today, we find ourselves managing highly integrated and often complex organizational processes. You may have heard this referred to as “big-picture management.” Whether we manage production, quality, procurement or the safety function, it's imperative that each area understands the organization's mission to deploy laser-focused actions that contribute to overall success.
A “big-picture” approach alone is insufficient. Success only can be achieved when “big-picture” and laser-focused visions are combined to achieve synergistic results.
Several years ago, I was working with a group of other professionals to develop a new safety vision for the corporation. In all honesty, I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of the discussion after I failed to move the group past what I felt was a short-sighted vision statement adopted by the team. The statement read something like: “As a company, we are to promote and support occupational safety and to manage in a manner that seeks to eliminate occupational injuries and illnesses.” While it might have looked nice on paper, it came up short in terms of our actual mission — namely, to protect our people, processes and products. If our safety mission was to stop loss, why didn't we just say so?
When it comes to improving safety in the workplace, the first question to ask yourself is: What is your laser-focused vision for success and are you experiencing a level of success that truly supports this vision?
Next, consider whether employees are actively implementing this vision daily. Political commentator Richard Brookhiser once said during Ronald Reagan's presidential tenure: “Reaganism could be jotted down on the back of a business card.” It was simply, “defeat communism and cut taxes.” What didn't fit on the back of a business card, Brookhiser said, could safely be ignored.
So, what is your vision for safety success? For too many organizations, it's focused on reducing or mitigating loss. Does this kind of safety vision engage or excite you? If not, how can it possibly excite those who are expected to demonstrate these behaviors?
Would someone who looked at your vision statement quickly recognize your safety values and how safety factors into your organization? A laser-focused safety vision can be a powerful tool for engaging employees, elevating expectations and driving a sense of ownership that takes people out of their comfort zones.
Consider the following for developing a laser-focused safety vision for your organization:
- Seek multiple perspectives. Assess your organization from top to bottom and inside out. Ask employees what motivates and inspires their commitment to safety and if the current safety vision aligns with their perspectives. Gather external feedback and don't be discouraged if comments from the manufacturing floor do not align with comments from the front office.
- Look for natural safety champions in your organization and assemble a “vision team". It’s crucial to take the time to assemble a team of dedicated personnel from all levels of the organization that shares your passion for and dedication to safety.
- Review your organization's safety goals and objectives before crafting the safety vision. Without a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve, it's impossible to realize your safety objectives. Document these goals and ensure that all members of the safety team have ownership and commitment to achieving them.
- Create a laser-focused safety vision for your organization. Your vision statement should be brief and to-the-point. If it is more than one or two sentences, you will struggle to communicate its purpose and value. A single phrase or sentence works best. Remember, the true measure of success is to create a safety vision that is compelling and memorable. If employees can't remember it, they will be less likely to help you realize it.
- Test the draft safety vision with employees, friends and colleagues outside your organization. Remember, if the statement doesn't inspire, it is not going to work. By sharing drafts, you'll work toward gathering support for your vision. Don't discount the value of stakeholder buy-in, which extends the reach of the safety process and helps build advocacy within your organization.
- Get endorsement. It is a critical step in this process and should not be taken lightly. Since your laser-focused safety vision statement is a values-based statement, endorsement from others is crucial. It is the stamp of approval that signifies the collective agreement that will help you realize the vision. Many great visions have failed because of poor endorsement practices. If done right, however, you can move past a work force of safety advocates to a work force of safety ambassadors who sponsor and implement the vision.
- Communicate your laser-focused safety vision broadly throughout the organization. If you have a safety website, post the vision there and consider it the first conversation in an ongoing dialogue. Keep the focus on safety by including relevant content and success stories in a wide variety of employee communications. Consider beginning team meetings by restating your laser-focused safety vision. The key is to be creative and to ensure that your safety vision is always top-of-mind in your organization.
In closing, I'm reminded of a quote from the late Yogi Berra, who said: “You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.”
About the Author: Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health
Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health at Intelex Technologies. He has over 25 years in EHS leadership experience in heavy manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging industries. Before joining Intelex, Scott served as Vice President of EHS for Coveris High Performance Packaging, was Executive Director of EHS at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and was Global Leader for Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark Corp.
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