Measure What You Create Not What You Avoid


Safety is MUCH More Than Becoming a GOOD Ducker!

Stop Preventing & Start Creating

Imagine how hard it was for Edwards Deming in the 1950’s to change the thinking of North American manufacturing from counting their failures and rejects and focusing on 100% reject free to actually measuring and celebrating what they should be creating…product excellence. Deming was so frustrated he had to move to Japan…where many years later the Emperor of Japan presented him with the second highest order of medal available in Japan, honouring him for almost single handily turning Japan’s economy around.

Somehow some in our profession have missed the 80’s revolution where almost all areas of business shifted to measuring what they were creating…product excellence. Here in Safety Management some are still counting and “preventing errors”…how unfortunate, no wonder so many people in the safety business can’t get into a boardroom. We don’t fit with the modern thinking of management. If you want to see a management team get behind something…start measuring them on what they do and not what they avoid. The fact is that measuring the absence of a negative (incidents, injuries and related costs) can sometimes happen entirely by being lucky. There’s nothing more harmful you can do for an executive management team than give them a bonus for being lucky. They soon realize that their inactivity could result in a bonus anyway…so they focus their efforts on what they can do something about…production creation.

“Measure and celebrate what you create not what you are trying to avoid” is the fundamental lesson in business. Create and measure safety excellence and the activities that make a place of work safe and healthy. Measure what you do to make it a safe place to work and you will have very few downgrading incidents to count as an outcome. Then if you do have a downgrading incident…learn from it and continue to strive for safety excellence (and for goodness sake don’t take away everyone’s “safety award”). Celebrate what you do not what you avoid because you’ll never really know if you created the “accident prevention” or if it was just luck. Hard to fake the creation of safe environments and behaviours…none of that is just LUCK.

Of course you can’t get a management team to say they don’t want 100% accident free…but that doesn’t help them achieve anything. Get them to focus on 100% of their safety creating goals (inspections, observations, employee engagement, procedure development, etc.) and eventually you’ll have very few, if any incidents to count…Deming would have wanted it that way.

Measuring the Positives

What are these positives in safety management, some call them leading indicators. I believe that these leading indicators are all too often misunderstood. It’s a simple concept really. What things are present to make me believe that I will get the desired outcome. In Deming’s approach he would say if you want to build a perfect car then focus on perfect parts. So if your goal is to safely produce your product or service then what things are you doing to ensure you achieve that outcome? Safety Tool box meetings may very well be what you think will add to your chances of accomplishing your goal…then simply measure the quality and quantity of your meetings. Machine maintenance checklist, safety observation, safety training, these are all common examples of what we do to make our places of work safe. Measure them often, recognize the effort it takes to make these activities happen and celebrate the positive outcomes.

This is the key to safety excellence.

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