Managers are typically accountable for outcome numbers. They use outcome numbers to direct the behavior of those who report to them. Most followers or subordinates of managers are assigned their subordinate responsibilities and did not choose their manager. In safety, outcome numbers are based on the relatively rare occurrence of an injury. These numbers (e.g., total recordable injury rate or TRIR) are reactive, reflect failure, and are not diagnostic for prevention.
Managers focus on numbers. In safety this means injury records and workers’ compensation costs. When I discuss people-based safety principles and procedures with managers, inevitably the question arises, “What’s the ROI or return on investment?” Managers focus on how much a process will cost and how long will it take for the numbers (as in TRIR) to improve. This approach is reflected by the popular management maxim, “You can only manage what you can measure.”