A Safety Excellence Strategy: The Four Facilitators of Execution

Success goals and progress indicators that show movement toward continuous improvement sends the message we are getting better, rather than failing less.

The famed boxer Mike Tyson once quipped, "Everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the face." The U.S. Military advises, "All strategies are successful until contact with the enemy, because the enemy hasn't voted yet." Strategies are important, but not as important as the planning process that creates them. Moreover, the planning process is vital, but not as significant as the ability to execute against it.

Developing, then executing against strategy is challenging even for the well-prepared. Having worked with some of the best strategy consultants and corporate executives, it is this author's conclusion that the ability to effectively execute against any excellence strategy requires mastering the four key elements discussed in this article.

Boundaryless Flow of Information
When an organization masters communication, everything else becomes possible. Some of the beliefs that obstruct the flow of organizational communication are: politics, shoot-the-messenger perceptions, protecting the employees, protecting the boss, "what they don't know won't hurt them," and "I know what is best" mentalities. Between the most senior individual and the lowest on the organizational hierarchy, those that fall in between often do not realize they are being communicated through, not communicated to.

Boundaries, real or otherwise, that hinder the flow of vital information must be sought out and neutralized. Silos and censorship of information destroy the ability to align efforts and make proactive course corrections. Regardless of direction, what percentage of information is censored in your organization? And what percentage of the population acts as censors, seeking out necessary indicators to communicate the effectiveness of plan?

Decision Rights
Statements such as, "What is my role in this again?" and "Doesn't she know that is her responsibility?" indicate the roles, responsibilities, and decision rights are not clear. Business author Peter Jacobs writes, "How a company decides who is authorized to make what types of decisions can have a profound effect on its business, both in terms of everyday effectiveness and the bottom line." Some organizations develop decision maps to help clarify the owners of specific decisions, the thought process, and from whom input must flow.

Decisions rights must be developed and then delegated or shared, as few strategies can be carried out without the help of others. Furthermore, strategies that affect culture should not be owned by a department or individual. Safety, as an example, and often core value in organizations, cannot have an excellence strategy developed without the involvement of operational personnel. But what their involvement is and what decisions they are responsible for must be clear.

Proactive Accountability
Developing decision rights will be a pointless exercise without proactive accountability. Even among the best in industry, few organizations manage accountability correctly. "Results were not achieved. Who needs to be held accountable?" Sound familiar? Consequences for non-performance are warranted and sometimes vital for a leader's ability to manage effectively.

Excellent performance will be difficult at best and rarely sustainable if accountability is administered or managed after the fact. Fundamentally, there are two sides to performance management, proactive and reactive. Accountability is no different. In client workshops, Proactive Accountability is defined as "Making sure individuals are doing what is necessary to accomplish the results and providing positive or negative consequences for performance, before checking if results have been obtained." How would you rate your ability to manage accountability? What percentage of your accountability is proactive vs. reactive?

Visible Progress Toward a Goal
Setting out on any course will quickly become demotivating without constant feedback on progress. One cannot wait for the process to complete to determine whether one went in the right direction. Consider the days where you have worked hard and were able to see progress and felt a sense of accomplishment compared to the days where the same amount of effort was applied and you felt the surface wasn't even scratched. One of the most effective motivators in a work setting is visible progress toward a goal. How well do you show visible progress of your strategy deployment or towards your overall goal?

First, consider: Does your goal send the message to fail less? If your strategy is based on a goal of fewer injuries, defects, or complaints, this is precisely the message sent. Failure reduction goals rarely create a sustained sense of motivation. Success goals and progress indicators that show movement toward continuous improvement sends the message we are getting better, rather than failing less.

Second, what are the indicators of progress and how are these indicators used to demonstrate advancement toward the goal? When visible progress is appropriately communicated, this reinforces that information is flowing freely to help the right people make the right decisions and facilitates proactive accountability.

Excellence is the ability to duplicate and sustain success. Strategies to achieve this desirable outcome will be elusive if the information flow is compromised, decision rights are vague, proactive accountability is absent, or the motivational impact of visible progress is forgotten. Without these facilitators of execution, luck will be a more important factor than you realize.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Shawn M. Galloway is the president of ProAct Safety and co-author of several best-selling books. As a consultant, advisor, and keynote speaker, he has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to improve safety strategy, culture, leadership, and engagement. He is also the host of the acclaimed weekly podcast series Safety Culture Excellence®. He can be reached at 936-273-8700 or [email protected]

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - July August 2022

    July / August 2022


      Specific PPE is Needed for Entry and Exit
      Three Quick Steps to Better HazCom Training
      Building a Chemical Emergency Toolkit
      The Last Line of Defense
    View This Issue