Thought Leadership


Money can't buy you sustainable safety

December 21, 2011

drunk drivingCheck out this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

I agree with the premise that $$ only drives algorithmic (my word) tasks.

Safety is not algorithmic... it is heuristic. We are asking for strategies and decisions, not just following directions, to get real results.

My research when I was very young was all about this. I suspect the Purpose Motive is akin to what we called "intrinsic motivation" - doing something because you enjoy it or it fits your purpose - something done without external consequences like money.

What we found was that money decreases intrinsic motivation, effectively replacing it with extrinsic motivation. You get the specific behavior but you do not get it when the extrinsic consequence is absent (like when the supervisor is away) and the person does not generalize to other behaviors, only doing the rule that gets the reward.

However, we found that feedback, especially reinforcement, actually increases intrinsic motivation when it provides information to the person about their level of competence (mastery) around their purpose.

So, this is why feedback is the central tenet of Behavior Based Safety. I'm fond of saying "Safety is not your job! It’s what you do for yourself and others because you’re human."  

Indeed, if you pay for safety you get unintended side effects. But if you engage employees in their safety you get safety behaviors and peer coaching maintained in the absence of supervisors... and more importantly, they generalize to other safety behaviors and activities as well as other work activities to become more productive, precise (quality), and pleasant.

Scott Geller writes about this in his new book "When no one is watching." I have stories and videos on the topic at: safety-doc.com.

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