ROC Your Organization!

DOES this sound familiar? It's a scenario repeated in organizations year after year . . . the dreaded annual planning process! It starts at or about the end of the third quarter--Sept. 30, give or take a week. The CEO returns from the annual "Performance Improvement Strategy Session" with the board of directors and calls a Monday morning staff meeting. S/he starts this meeting with one of two very predictable introductions:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the board is 'very disappointed' with our nine-month results; projections indicate that we won't make our year-end numbers. They've made it perfectly clear that our performance must improve. We've got to ratchet things up through the fourth quarter. Next year they expect a 10 percent improvement across the board with no budget increase over this year's plan!"

Or, perhaps, this:

"Ladies and gentleman, the board is 'very pleased' with our nine-month results; projections indicate that we'll make our year-end numbers. They applaud all of you for your efforts. However, in view of _____ (you can fill in this blank; the variables are many), they've made it perfectly clear that our results must improve. We've got to ratchet things up through the fourth quarter. Next year, they expect a 10 percent improvement across the board with no budget increase over this year's plan!"

S/he continues: "I'd like all of you to assess your operations, review your variance reports, and bring me a plan that will produce the required improvements. Have your drafts on my desk by Thursday morning. Thanks, and I know you're all up to the challenge!"

You return to your cube and ponder: "What's a safety manager to do?" More training, more audits, more meetings, more discipline, more awareness campaigns . . . more of what hasn't worked in the past? And by Thursday, no less--there goes the weekend.

To make it even worse, deep down you know it's not going to produce the results required; you'll be back in the same situation next year. If only there were an alternative, a way to break free of mediocrity, a way to engage the organization . . . a way create step-change improvement, a way to attack the real causes of loss in the organization.

There is. It is a focus on Excellence Strategy. Although there are no quick fixes in business or safety, a focus on "doing right things" can (and does) generate rapid returns.

Defining Excellence
Excellence is not the opposite of mediocrity . . . . Excellence is different! Brian Tracy, author of "The Creative Manager," says between you and your ultimate goal lies a rock--a significant impediment that prevents you from achieving your objective. To be successful, you must find a way over, under, around, or through your "rock."

In my work with companies striving to become Safety Excellence organizations, I've learned a major impediment to achieving excellence is an inability to create sustainable change. By sustainable, I don't mean the ordinary, run-of-the-mill type of change--but, rather, change of the frame-bending, mind-altering type I called "The ROC"--(Radical Organizational Change) in a Professional Safety article: "Safety Management: A Call for Revolution." Communications expert John Drebinger says: "You attain the next level of excellence by changing who you are," and "You change who you are, by changing what you do."

"ROC Your Organization" is all about changing what you do. In book, compact disc, or action deck card form, it provides a collection of non-traditional and somewhat entertaining ways of instigating the kind of change necessary to achieve safety excellence. "ROC Your Organization" is a tool designed to help safety managers and their leaders change "what and how" safety is done in an organization. The book includes the "Safety Excellence Mindset" quiz, the World-Class Strategy Model, the Safety Excellence Continuum diagram, and a Safety Excellence Attributes self-assessment. The 52 "Insights on Excellence" (quotes from business leaders and proactive thinkers) and "ROC Initiatives" (organizational change tactics) it contains form a call for action. They encourage practitioners to become change insurgents and take those overt and covert actions requisite to becoming a Safety Excellence organization.

Sample ROCs

ROC #15: Go Back to the Future

Go back into the deep, dark corners of the facility and ask six (or more) front-line workers in those areas this question: "Where is the next accident going to happen in this department?" Armed with this information, work with them and the department manager to prevent that future from happening! "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Excellence Requires Proactive Efforts.

ROC #16: Create a Masterpiece

Task five teams to break out and draw detailed pictures of your current safety process (i.e., its design, structure, key characteristics, relationships, major challenges, etc.) After these "Picassos" have been completed, have each team describe the broad strokes and subtle details captured in their "works of art." If a picture is worth a thousand words, odds are these masterpieces will be priceless in their ability to identify problems and target improvement opportunities.

Excellence Requires the Big Picture.

ROC #35: I'll Take a 'Dirty Dozen'

Recruit your cynics, rebels, and radicals; individuals throughout the organization who are commonly considered to be opinionated, sarcastic, and outspoken about the company's safety efforts. People such as these usually have good reasons for bad feelings . . . reasons you need to know about, because more often than not, it is the deeply hidden truth wanting to be heard. Involve these voices in a skunk works initiative designed to produce change and make things better. Challenge them to turn negative thoughts into positive actions. Free their minds, seek their ideas, and involve them in developing positive solutions and leading proactive change. Report on what you learn and accomplish over the next 90 days.

Excellence Requires People Who Care.

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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