Environment, Health and Safety (EHS)

5 Most Asked Questions from Yesterday's Webcast on Organizational Culture & Safety

People-Process-Technology-CultureOn Thursday, May 25, LNS Research hosted the webcast, “Unlock the Power of Organizational Culture to Improve Safety and Operational Performance.” The presentation explained how culture can impact safety and operational performance, how to assess it, and strategies for achieving culture change to support organizational objectives and help operationalize management systems.

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Do you agree that an EHS system is a tool only, and that EHS procedure and processes are a must for cultural change?

If we are talking about software systems, then wholeheartedly yes. More broadly, EHS information management technology helps integrate EHS requirements, activities, and performance insight about core business operations. Our research shows that barriers to EHS performance span enabling technologies, organizational issues, and business processes. The solution involves taking a holistic approach that aligns the right combination of people, process, technology capabilities. There is no “silver bullet” solution, technology or otherwise, that will work in isolation. The other key ingredient is organizational culture - the more informal aspects such as values, beliefs, and attitudes that pervade an organization and influence individual and group behavior.

How can a company determine where it is on the capability maturity curve?

A lot of capability maturity models (CMM) have been published that cover many different topics ranging from Software Development, Business Processes, Safety, Organizational Culture, and everywhere in between. CCMs are useful tools to help guide improvement and change initiatives, by enabling a formal gap analysis that com¬pares the organization’s current state with industry best practices. Each CCM has pre-defined maturity levels for whatever the focus topic is, and criteria associated with each level. For example, the LNS Research Operational Excellence Maturity Model has five maturity levels, from Ad Hoc to Innovation Leader, and associated best practices that an organization can use to assess itself and determine where it falls on the maturity curve.

We've had several false starts, and have the feeling that safety is just a "flavor of the month". Is there any good way to overcome that kind of doubt?

This sounds like it could be a leadership issue. Is the CEO and top management team really on board? The starting point for any significant initiative that involves change and organizational culture is executive leadership. One or more key people at the top need to decide that something about today's ways of working needs to change, then develop a clear vision for the needed change. Most importantly, they need to start "walking the talk" in a visible way, and recruiting others to do so. The key is that the change initiative is more than just issuing directives and making announcements: leaders need to set a consistent example. The “doubt” is probably originating at the top of the organization.

If EHS software systems don’t provide the expected results, should they be continued?

It's never easy to admit that an initiative or investment failed and that the company should abandon it. Since your organization likely needs effective technology support for your EHS management system, doing nothing seems like a poor choice – you’re basically throwing in the towel on performance improvement. Chances are renovating the current system will be more cost-effective than starting over and replacing it, unless there are too many intractable problems resulting from poor business decisions made during and after implementation. In the case of deep-seated problems, it may be too expensive to fix it, not just in terms of cost, but also time, political capital, and goodwill. The correct decision will not focus on sunk cost, but rather on what is most cost-effective moving forward. Either way, a strong leader on the top management team will need to actively sponsor the change initiative.

What does it mean to be a “learning organization?”

In a learning organization, people are adept at acquiring and transferring knowledge. Continuous learning and improvement is an essential aspect of any high-performance culture. This involves systematic analysis of operations, process execution, and incidents, and collaborative deployment of lessons learned and best practices throughout the organization. The process of sharing such learnings helps an organization to more effectively function as an overall system, and helps instill a culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence.

EHS Leaders: Unlock the Power of Organizational Culture to Improve Safety and Operational Performance

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