Deciding To Be the Best Starts With a Few Simple Questions

BIC - June 2011
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

Organizations striving to achieve sustainable excellence begin so with a fundamental question: Do we truly want to be the best in the world in this operational category, or do we want to try to be the best we can? These are two different questionsresulting in two different answers. For organizations to achieve organizational alignment and accountability, clarity is needed. Rather than solely expressing accountability through repeated communication, which certainly adds initial value, a valueframework is needed in which to reflect decisions upon.

In the April 2011 article, I proposed five simple questions that should be utilized in order to ensure sustainability of safety excellence. High-performing organizations base their operational decisions on the answers they receive to these.

  1. How is safety enhanced by this decision?
    Will this decision enhance or compromise ANY facet of safety? If safety is to play a role in the decisions of executives or part-time employees, the question needs to be asked and answered. The realist in me recognizes that we cannot remove all risk exposure in any industrial setting. While this is a reality in all business, ask ifthe decision makes progress towards safety excellence possible, createsno change, or takesus back a few steps?

  2. How will this influence behavior in the organization?
    People do things for a reason. If a desire exists to understand the impact on personal behaviors, the motives must be addressed. Moreover, behavioral approaches have taught us if we change influences, we change behavior. Will this decision positively or negatively impact the influences on desirable behavior? A decision that changes the motivation of individuals will, without question, change what they do. This is human nature.

  3. How will this influence ownership in safety?
    Dr. Deming, founder of our generation's quality movement, said it best. "People support what they help create." Ownership in performance is critical to achieving excellence in any operational category. Doing what is required meets performance objectives. Achieving excellence is accomplished through organizational alignment, by focusing on individual contributions toward a goal. This can only be accomplished through ownership. Will this decision help individuals further their ownership role in safety?

  4. How will we gather insight by those affected by the decision?
    Research has proven that responses to decisions are first prompted by emotion and then followed by logic. Empowering others to make similar decisions that consider the core value of safety needs to be reinforced. How will we be sure we understand the operational safety implications of this decision? Hint: The answers are there if we engage others and keep our ears open.

  5. How will this help us be the best in safety?
    If our desire is to be the best in safety, this is the most important question to consider. Operational decisions should be made that reflect the organization's intent. If the goal is to be the best in safety, will this decision take us closer towards that goal, have no impact, or divert our direction?

Remember, core values will never become culturally-shared beliefs if they are delegated to a single person or department. If it is a core value, it needs to be tested to be reinforced.Beginning this dialogue is the first step towards creating a culture where progress is validated on a decision-by-decision basis. The decision for what type of culture to create is up to you.

Shawn M. Galloway is the CEO of ProAct Safety and co-author of several bestselling books. As an award-winning consultant, adviser, leadership coach 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 highly acclaimed weekly podcast series Safety Culture Excellence®.
For more information, call (936) 273-8700 or email

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