May 22 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Successful efforts to achieve excellence in safety require continuously seeking new methods and maturing mindsets, for what is acceptable today has a strong chance of being viewed as unacceptable in the future. Dedicated to improving safety, company leaders are understandably urged to act proactively and reactively. But what drives the decisions, and what are the decisions measured against?
Understandably, leaders will want to do more if the results aren't visualized. More isn't always the answer; better is a more appropriate answer. Moreover, sometimes progress quickens by identifying and removing non-value added or required programs and processes that might be unnecessary bureaucracy. As a company develops a strategy for safety efforts, what not to do is just as important as what to do.
Safety strategy development begins not with assessing the current position, but instead by casting a measurable vision of success within both culture and results. Sometimes for culture, this looks like prioritizing critical beliefs and behaviors representing success. Then you assess your current position against that ideal before prioritizing what to do to close the gap. Only some initiatives a company chooses as part of its plan will yield desired beliefs or behaviors.
A company I advised for many years had a mission statement for their global EHS team, "to continuously improve the quality of life of the employees, on and off the job." Conversations around a new initiative, rule, or approach were measured against "Will this improve the quality of life?" If not, and this is required, "How can we lessen the pain?" There are some things that, if we do them, add value to the efforts and people see value in. Some things we do might not add value and could destroy the perception of value with safety efforts or the overall safety department.
Consider in your organization what are some things you should not do. What might disengage or demotivate people? What might distract from the necessary focus? What might create a false sense of security, safety or success? The answers to this can make up your 'Not-To-Do' list.
Brainstorm with a team representing the workforce (involving multiple levels) to develop this list. Then reflect on what makes your Not-To-Do list the next time you discuss a change that will impact the many customers and consumers of your safety improvement efforts.
"What you don't do determines what you can do." — Tim Ferris
"Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you." — Confucius
"The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do." — Michael Porter
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.