In the previous article, we discussed the importance of leaders assuming responsibility for new ways of thinking and, likewise, challenging others to do the same to prepare their organization for a safety and loss prevention system implementation. In the next steps, leaders should (a) reflect on key structures (i.e., processes, management systems, organizational design, company policies and requirements, etc.) in their organization that can both enhance and hinder the success of the implementation; (b) develop a shared vision; and (c) design the change into the organization.
Organizational structures are critical leverage points for change. Structures refer to how organizational systems, processes, activities, etc. are organized that produces certain patterns of organizational behavior. Structures designed from old ways of thinking will produce status quo performance and yield little change in organizational behavior. Structures that can likely hinder the success of the implementation should be challenged and changed or replaced; however, structures that can enhance the implementation should be touted and magnified. For example, if companies want to reduce safety and loss incidents within their entire operation, but do not include contractors in their respective safety and loss prevention process, they can’t expect the new safety and loss prevention implementation to be successful. In this example, challenging and addressing this structure to include contractors in company safety and loss prevention processes can set the stage for a holistic organizational reduction in safety and loss incidents. Listed below are some basic examples of structures and the pattern of organizational behavior they can produce.
• Safety processes that exist solely within the Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) department will lead those outside of HSE to believe and act as though safety activities are not their responsibility.
• Procedures that aren’t easily accessible or are overly complicated and non-user friendly will likely not be reviewed frequently by workers.
• Organizations that don’t require frequent and proactive leadership engagement in the workplace will likely suffer from communication and trust issues between employees and management.
As a way to support change for the system implementation, leaders should establish a shared vision and ensure key structures are in place to support and facilitate this vision. Leaders need to facilitate the creation of a shared vision to reflect what people want from the change. Notice the key word is “shared”. In other words, this vision isn’t just established by the C-suite level or executives, but should be developed by a cross section of the organization. If developed properly, this vision will become a guiding force that aligns actions and supports the organization’s implementation.
It’s not enough for leaders to review key organizational structures or create support for the shared vision as this change MUST be designed into organizational systems and processes. As a result, this change can become a part of what the organizational system does –– not an add-on. For example, organizations should identify their high-risk tasks, error-likely parts of tasks, and tasks with a loss history and design the safety and loss prevention tools into these tasks to proactively manage and prevent loss events from occurring. If this organizational change is properly designed into organizational systems and processes, it will become how the organization functions and enable effective and successful task performance.
Leaders must also be deliberate and design this change into their own leadership behaviors to demonstrate the change they wish to see, even if means stepping out of their comfort zones. What leaders pay attention to, control, and measure communicates what they care about. What this means is that leaders must engage the organization and be willing to show up in public settings at all levels to (a) gauge openness to change; (b) provide compelling reasons for change; (c) illustrate limitations of current efforts and how change is an enhancement; (d) challenge excuses and pushback; (e) address organizational anxiety; and (f) show visible support and discuss impact of change at all levels.
In summary, the last three articles, which are a three-part series on the critical factors leaders should address to properly prepare themselves and their organizations for a safety and loss prevention implementation, have addressed the importance of (1) developing an effective case for action; (2) recognizing how the system implementation is connected to other organizational systems and processes; (3) being aware of and reflecting on their own beliefs and assumptions regarding previous implementations that may impact their openness and willingness to change; (4) accepting responsibility for new ways of thinking; (5) challenging beliefs of others in the organization that, if left unchallenged, can significantly hinder the success of the implementation; (6) establishing a shared vision for change and putting structures in place to facilitate organizational vision; and (7) designing the change into larger organizational systems, so the change becomes a part of what the organizational systems do and don’t become an add-on. If organizations and leaders follow these guidelines, they’ll set the stage for an effective safety and loss prevention implementation with genuine organizational buy-in and a strong foundation for sustainability.