You’re walking back to your office having just completed a safety update. You tell yourself, “That wasn’t my finest hour.” No movement on action items from recent audits. Participation in observations has declined. Incidents are trending upward. You still hear the supervisor’s words: “What are you going to do about it?”

Just what will change the situation?

As far as you know, you’ve done everything you can, but you have limited staff and employees in four plant sites. You can’t be everywhere policing everyone. What more do they expect of you?

You start to feel overwhelmed. Quotes and other thoughts pop into your head. W. Edwards Deming commented, “96 percent of all problems are system imposed.” “You change the culture of a company by changing the behavior of its leaders,” said Larry Bossidy, CEO of AlliedSignal. “Consequences are the real motivators,” teaches Scott Geller.

You recall an article that came across your desk: “Leadership is a Contact Sport: The ‘Follow-up Factor’ in Management Development,” by Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan. Their study of eight models of leadership development suggests the most effective results happen when peers talk to peers about leadership issues on an ongoing basis.

“How do I apply that to safety?” you ask.

Delivering the goods

Your head is spinning. You close your eyes and drift off into the land of infinite possibilities. What if there was a way to teach strategic lessons to everyone in the organization at the same time, to get everyone on the same page? To help learners internalize principles and procedures, they could listen to these short lessons on tape over and over again. Pocket-sized lesson outlines would be supplied to refer to on the job. Each lesson would also have an assignment and an exercise.

You envision reviews where managers discuss their experiences and share successes and failures. This is where you get into peer-to-peer conversations and the importance of follow-up. To top it off, a tracking system holds each individual accountable for learning and using the practical lessons.

A smile comes over your face. Ah… no content preparation, no PowerPoint development, no handouts to run off, no scheduling conflicts, and no more complaints about “another meeting.” All of these positive consequences result from the new safety performance improvement process you helped to establish.

Just then the door slams and pulls you back to the graphs on your desk. Were you daydreaming or is this possible? The variety and flexibility of technology today makes this type of culture-changing process not only a reality but affordable and available to everyone.