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Friday, December 9, 2011

Lean Quote: Safety Culture and Leadership Behavior

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise." — Tacitus, Publius Cornelius

One of the key predictors of an organizations safety culture is perceived management value of safety, often expressed by the behavior of managers within the organization. It is the leadership behavior therefore of managers that often can be the key to influencing risk taking occurring within organizations.

Leadership behavior and safety culture is related to safety performance in two ways:

1. Organization’s safety culture affects safety performance.
2. Leadership behavior affects safety culture and indirectly affects safety performance.

Leadership is more than just management, and refers to not to just what, but how a person influences and motivates others. For example if a manger walks by an employee not wearing the correct PPE for the job, because they do not notice it is not being worn, the employee can be left with impression that managers do not mind if safety rules are not followed. It is these subtle things or soft signals that can play a major role in safety across the board.

As a leader your behavior affects the safety culture of your organization. Focus on three strategies to achieve world-class leadership in safety and operational discipline:

• Change Culture and Behavior - Build and lead a culture of personal accountability for safety and operational discipline.
• Provide Staff with Knowledge and Tools - Establish, and continue to improve, communicate, and maintain well-defined standards, requirements, and tools that integrate safety into processes and operations.
• Create Safer Workspaces – Through direct observation reduce/eliminate hazards to prevent near miss injuries.

In order to connect safety objectives to safety performance, leaders perform critical behaviors, such as challenging assumptions, describing a safety vision, and providing feedback to other leaders on performance.

As the business climate continues to change, it is critical that we think beyond traditional safety management paradigms that limit leadership activities to detached “prescribe and allocate” roles. Successful organizations are demonstrating that active safety leadership is not only definable, it is also effective. Leaders who harness this knowledge stand to gain significant improvements in safety and at the same time build a foundation for other kinds of organizational excellence.

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