Deming once said that performance does not come from the individual but from the system. When discussing safety it is generally hard to quote Deming, the godfather of quality. However, there are so many resemblances between the evolution of quality and safety. They both focus on an environment that prevents failures from happening. One has more of an impact on our lives than the other.
Our team has spent years in different factories or facilities all around the world. We see the need for continuous safety improvement. With our first book on safety in the works (The Five Things Everyone Should Know About Health And Safety), we’d like to share some thoughts on the subject. This post will explain how we believe Lean, Six Sigma, and Safety not only work together but compliment each other.
You must build a continuous improvement atmosphere, and to do so, there must be a system in place. Otherwise, improvements alone will not be effective. Utilizing Lean and Six Sigma is another way to establish continuous improvement.
Safety management is crucial when it comes to creating, implementing, and maintaining a safety system. The values of your safety system are driven from leadership, and no sustainable shift in culture can happen without strong leadership and a strong safety system. As Deming states, performance comes not from individuals, but from the system itself. The safety system will also need a strong leadership team to work properly.
On your leadership team, you will need Change Agents. Leaders who are driven, and can build and manage relationships within the organization. Change agents are the catalysts for change, they build trust within the company and use their relationships to establish Operational Credibility.
A great example of a change agent is the late Steve Jobs. Jobs had the vision that no one else had; he saw a future for Apple that no one else could see, and he brought that vision to life. There needs to be a system in place for continuous improvement and an atmosphere to promote further improvement. Otherwise, improvements alone will not be effective. Utilizing Lean Six Sigma is an excellent way to establish continuous improvements.
When it comes to Safety we believe there are four key pieces to successfully managing safety:
Change Agents: These Leaders, Visionaries, are the people who direct change to keep the organization ahead of its competitors. Leaders embrace change, but also enact change on others throughout the organization. Change agents see a future no one else does, they have vision and foresight to see what needs to happen, and have the passion needed in order to get there. They lead change because they believe that the organization must get ahead and that change is the only way the organization will succeed. Change agents are necessary to change the culture and improve but just remember that not everyone is cut out to be a change agent. It must be someone who can truly see the organization as a whole and know where changes should be made and how to make them.
Documentation: A written description of policies, procedures, objectives, requirements, responsibilities, and work instructions created or required by the Safety Management System (SMS). These documents help to reinforce, define, and standardize the SMS in order to meet safety objectives. The focus should be on communication – internally and externally. Good communication can take an organization beyond compliance, which is exactly where you want to go.
Why is standardization important when creating documentation in a SMS? Well, if everyone is following the same guidelines and safety measurements, there is less room for error. Written descriptions of these processes will also accomplish this.
System: This is the process itself and, defined by documentation, performs its acts. Without process and structure, all of the documentation, leadership or change in the world will not deliver the results required and sustainability will be impossible.
Leadership: Leadership can be a difficult concept to explain, but here’s a secret: Great safety leadership is no different from great leadership. It requires great leaders who are motivated to improve their own abilities as well as the safety of their employees. In safety, our job as leaders is to motivate the organization to strive to achieve our goals, and when we hit roadblocks help the organization to avoid straying from the common goal.
Over the next few weeks, we will post several excerpts from our upcoming book and would love to hear your thoughts. What are the greatest challenges with safety at your company?
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