If safety excellence isn't clearly defined and aligned throughout an organization, it won't be achieved. Ask 10 people to define safety excellence and, on average, you'll get eight distinctly different answers. Ask these same individuals, "What would you see that is common when visiting a work area that would explain why and how safety excellence was achieved?" You'll get 10 different answers.
When working with executive leaders in the creation of their 3-to-5-year safety-excellence strategy, we often begin by determining the existing alignment between different leadership levels. A survey is a frequently used tool to gain this insight, beginning with the two aforementioned questions. Answers range from "no injuries" to very descriptive, well-thought-out descriptions of what practices, beliefs, and knowledge would be common that would indicate success. If it isn't clear to executive leadership what it would look like when successful, expect misalignment throughout the rest of the organization. Herein lies the importance of Operationalizing Safety Excellence.
Safety excellence must be described in operational terms and make sense to the audience whose behaviors you are trying to influence. Safety excellence is more than just repeating great results. It is also profound insight into how the results were obtained, with a shared mindset throughout the culture that continuous improvement will always be possible. Once great results are achieved, what beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors would be common that explain why and create confidence that the results are more than luck, normal variation, or Hawthorne effect?
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