Gaining executive level sponsorship for changes to your safety culture
Editor’s note: This ISHN web exclusive is reprinted with the permission of B-Safe Management Solutions from the white paper, “Strategic Safety Culture Roadmap.” Contact BSMS at (317) 736 8980 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Without clear, strong sponsorship from executive leadership and other management teams, a change process is unlikely to [a] secure the necessary resources, [b] have the means to obtain and retain the support of others, and/or [c] overcome the tendency of many to resist change.
Sponsors’ roles mean they accept overall responsibility for achieving the change process goal and benefits. This means sponsors must: [a] be people with the authority to make the change(s) happen; [b] have direct authority over those who will implement the action or change; [c] have access to and/or control over the resources (money, time and people) needed to implement the change(s); and [d] have a clear vision, identified goals and measurable outcomes for the change initiative. Planning who you want to be sponsors, and to do what is needed when necessary, is vital for success.
Inevitably, any changes to a company’s safety culture can have a profound impact on the way that company does business. Without the buy-in of the executive leadership team, any changes are unlikely to succeed. This means those promoting the change (i.e. change agents) have to build a compelling business case for the need for change and the benefits that can be realized, to obtain the buy-in of the executive leadership team.
Usually, this means considering the [a] financial aspects (e.g. how much we can reduce our operating costs, avoid property damage and reduce workers’ compensation costs from injuries, versus the costs of doing so); [b] reputational aspects (e.g. how our safety culture and safety performance compare to others in the industry); and [c] internal process aspects (e.g. how safely and efficiently we currently perform our tasks, and how much better we can be). Ideally, consideration has also been given to who the owners and sponsors of the change(s) will be, and the scale and scope of the change(s) (e.g. organization-wide or only certain business units).
Think about the best way to present a case to the executive leadership team in a compelling way, in the minimum time possible, to get the desired results. To help develop and present a sound business case and get the desired results, it is best to:
- be clear about the reasons for the change
- be clear about the outcome or result that you want
- specify the different options there are for resolving the issues identified from the safety assessments / data-mining exercises
- identify the pros and cons of each option
- identify and justify the benefits of your preferred options
- identify the risks of your preferred options and how you will minimize them
- contrast the benefits and risks contained in your proposal against each other to understand possible objections
- estimate the costs involved and include a “just in case” contingency
- estimate the timescales involved
- address any key objections
- try to identify key individuals who are highly committed to safety and likely to support your proposals
- re-evaluate everything to make sure you have covered all your bases