Don’t get business leaders interested in safety

There are many conversations about why safety science practitioners should try to win over business leaders.  It sounds good.  But the danger is that this might happen…

Once convinced that safety is interesting, at this point they will stop listening internally and start listening to someone else.  Business leaders want to engage on a like level.  They will want to look outside for progressive ideas.  Why?  There can’t be anything inside the organization that they don’t already know.  After all, they are the leader.

So the search will be on for an inspirational prophet preferably one that says things that the leader already believes.  This prophet will originate from either another country than your own, preferably with a larger population than your own, or from a larger corporation in your own country.  The prophet could take the form of an individual,  consulting firm or large business with first class engineering that spins off a “safety leadership program”.

At this point control has been lost.  An expensive product will be introduced.  It will take a long time to introduce because “deep change takes time”.  The program will involve a lengthy “journey”.  The future will involve grand visions – not a bad idea of themselves – but delivery that descends into prominent illusions rather than meaningful action.

It will generally be a process of barracking for safety.  Like cheering on a horse in a race from the betting shop.  It’s not affecting the race but it sounds noisy and “passionate”.

The implementation phase will involve “leaders” walking around “showing their commitment”.  How will they show their commitment?

(a) By doing their job well?

OR

(b) By walking around telling other people “at the coal face”, who’s jobs they don’t understand, what they are doing wrong?

No. (a) will not happen.  Firstly that is too hard. Secondly they don’t know how to. Thirdly, and most importantly, no one would see it.

Yes, (b) is the answer as it’s easier and it is visible.

PS: If you are looking for latest scientific leadership program then please consider the B.E.A.N.I.E.(tm) system.

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About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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11 Responses to Don’t get business leaders interested in safety

  1. rodney currey says:

    looking at processes using safety as a vehical ends always in productivity, from my experience. So many buisnesses dont function to their full capacity. cheers

  2. Hi Rodney, Yes agreed. If the processes of work are actually examined then many good things can emerge. There is a risk though that many “culture change” instead of “work change” programs never get to the point of redesigning any work but are just window-dressing.

  3. mike behm says:

    A prophet is not without honor except in his own country among his own people.

  4. mike behm says:

    a stolen quote…

  5. The Bible. http://biblehub.com/mark/6-4.htm says the author is the apostle Mark. [Should be out of copyright therefore.]

  6. Annmarie Darcy says:

    Today we covered Fatigue risk management in our VIOSH course . It seems to me if business leaders are not interested in this issue it will not be effectively addressed.

  7. Mervyn Sher says:

    JC, this is exactly how BHP, Chevron and the likes operate.

    As long as it looks good, and the “interactions” of the line managers with the workforce can be registered to show a statistical value, the C suite are content.

    Why change it? It works for them, they pay their voodoo science consultants squillions of dollars to produce what pretty much everyone knows is absolute rubbish, and all is happy and quiet in La La Land.

    For companies such as these to actually even think of implementing this kind of management change across their operation, they would in reality have to replace better than 90 percent of their managers. Unthinkable.

  8. mike behm says:

    The title might be “Don’t get business leaders interested in safety”, but change the word ‘safety’ for any “X” that’s not related directly impacting the short-term bottom line and the same might hold true. Stick in one of these words…environment, sustainability, or corporate social responsibility…JC’s same meaning might very well hold true…

  9. Thanks Mike and Merv. The issue is more widespread then taking Mike’s theory on board with the problem being the engagement of prophets who cast spells and create illusions of action on populist themes. A lot of movement but nothing actually happens.

    Is safety just a populist theme?

  10. Pingback: How to have a big industrial accident. Step by step guide. | safedesign

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