Safety professionals today champion continuous improvement in the safe performance of the organizations we serve, this in the context of ever-tighter cycle times, ever-higher output rates, and ever-changing workforce populations. Post- 9-11-01 requirements of the newly-minted Department of Homeland Security place awesome 24/7 demands on our discipline. As always, Safety's most visible failures-catastrophic, misleadingly quick to the uninformed eye-are vulnerable to the currents of public perception and the vagaries of political agendas. And ironically, Safety successes in increasingly complex performance improvement efforts-for example, movements to just-in-time peer observation teams, close call reporting, and safety rules revision-have rightly led organization leaders to rely on the function as an expert process partner. So it goes.
In a way, this paper is a call to pile it on: we * would offer that even as safety professionals work to manage huge responsibilities with unwieldy systems in constant view of regulators and the public, they have the opportunity like no other department to introduce, nurture, and spread longterm organization culture change. Further, based on our shared experience, we would suggest that partnership between Safety and performance consultants-colleagues whose jobs and skill sets identify and close gaps in human performance using multiple solutions, with varied stakeholders, over strategic periods of time-is a high-payoff strategy for advancing workplace culture change strongly.
Our paper illustrates one such partnership with a case study of the collaboration between CN's U.S. Region Safety and Risk Management functions and the Hile Group, a workplace safety and performance consultancy. The case study focuses particularly on CN U.S. Region's revision of its safety rule book.
When we say "workplace culture change," we mean the process of transforming from one framework to another the way organization systems and people relate to each other, think, and labor together. Such change is the workplace equivalent of social change, with one example being, say, the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States. Within safety today, culture change roots into relative degrees of shared authority, systems thinking, equality, open communication, mutual accountability, and proactivity. Interestingly, these roots run in parallel with core competencies performance consultants seek to create in culture change efforts wherever they go, no matter the department with which they are working.
What makes Safety such a desirable point of entry for workplace culture change? Safety as a working discipline enjoys the precursors for authentic cultural transformation noted in Figure 1 below. What other organization function offers a comparably fertile environment for such work?