How Innovative and Audacious Are Your Safety Meetings?

BIC - February 2015
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

Some of the best improvement ideas come from those who think outside the box. What level of collaborative creativity is there with your safety improvement ideas? Is it acceptable to creatively explore ways to add further value with your safety efforts? How innovative are people allowed to be when discussing safety progress? Are your safety suggestions audacious?

If the previous considerations aren't a natural part of the safety dialogue within your operations, why not? What are the barriers that need to be overcome? Many organizations require safety meetings, but how valuable are they to those attending? Are the attendees perceived and treated as audience members, targets of communication or the ones with the best ideas? Most often, you will find the greatest ideas reside within your best safety leaders in operations: the employees. If only we would view them as customers of our efforts and make it easier for them to be heard.

Recently, we have created something that has evolved to be called an audacious safety meeting. This is a discussion framework that periodically (and sometimes more frequently, based on the maturity of the safety culture) allows people to be extremely bold, highly inventive, brave and fearless in their safety suggestions.

Certainly, there are many considerations to the group dynamics (who is involved, when do they meet), meeting expectations (we can't solve, nor act on everything) and meeting guidelines (e.g., maintaining focus, one conversation at a time, no judgment of others, quantity over quality, building on each idea and maintaining respect). But don't get caught up in perfection or standardization in the beginning.

Get the right people together and start the dialogue around the following questions: 1) If money and resources weren't an issue, what would be possible in safety? 2) If no one was fearful, what would be possible in safety? 3) If the law prohibited us from punishing for safety violations, how would we engage people to follow the rules without discipline? 4) What do we need to stop doing that would make it easier and more attractive for people to get involved in safety? 5) What has helped improve others' operational performance and what can we learn from that? 6) What would be the craziest thing you can think of that just might help improve safety? 7) What are we not thinking about?

Meetings like this should be targeted to foster dialogue around what is possible, determine where we are right now and figure out what the gaps are. A safe environment should be created and managed where it is acceptable to think differently. Most importantly, the realization that we can always be better regardless of our current performance should be encouraged.

When we are free to be bold and consider delivering new, unexpected value to be the driving force of how we progress for the customers of safety, we can be creative, we can keep things fresh and we can delight those we are all so eager to engage. Henry Ford once said, "Had I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse." Often, the customers will know what they want in safety if they know what to look for and know how to identify the differences between what is safe, what is a hazard or what is a risk.

Sometimes the customer is wrong and sometimes we need to expand the thinking about what is possible in safety. When we are free to be creative and when it is safe to be audacious in our thinking about how safety could be improved, we move toward knowing there will always be a better way. When this occurs, zero injuries is a pointless measurement because more attention is placed on how to add increasing value rather than failing our customers less.

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