For decades, Fortune 500 Companies have leveraged Operational Excellence (OE) methodologies to drive productivity, employee engagement and culture. By definition, Operational Excellence is a workplace philosophy and methodology focused on identifying and eliminating defects or inefficiencies in a process, most often, a manufacturing process. OE involves focusing on the ‘customers’ needs, keeping employees positive, empowered, and engaged and continual improvement. It's clear, concise, practical, but most importantly, actionable and teachable.
OE problem solving methodologies and techniques have not historically been applied to a facility, market or region's ‘Safety Process’ or ‘Safety Defects.’ It has similarly not been applied to address Safety Maturity and Culture. It is important to remember that Culture drives employee behavior and employee behavior sets the norms, both positive and negative.
Examples of norms resulting from a negative culture include excessive clutter, employees not wearing seatbelts, tires not choked, excessive finger pointing, supervisors are not properly training new employees, etc. Norms resulting from a positive culture include the opposite; excellent housekeeping, all employees wear their seatbelts and when someone is not, they are coached by a peer based on the need to protect themselves and others around them, employees are heard, engaged and part of hazard identification and solutions!
If you seek to change culture, pick a norm you want to change, activate a plan to change that norm. Change the negative norm, you change behaviors; you change behavior, you begin changing culture.
The OE problem solving tool; DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) allows your plant or geography to get very specific to the negative norms that drive performance using available data and employees' operational expertise.
The ‘Customer’ in this example is our employees, and the "defects" are injuries, near misses, and unsafe behaviours. The goal is to identify the norms and root causes leading to the defects or injuries, and change the norm(s) driving unfavorable performance.
This approach uses Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control).