“The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. VISION will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to achieve excellence. Only VISION allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. VISION has no boundaries and knows no limits…”  ― Tony Dungy, former head coach, Super Bowl winning coach and player, Indianapolis Colts / Pittsburgh Steelers

You and I know that having a vision for safety begins in your mind’s eye and is critical to taking safety performance to an entirely new level. 

We also know that your vision for safety has to be a clear and compelling one.  It has to move people towards a future state of excellence – a great place to be but not one to rest within.  And having a creative vision for safety that is embraced is an important part of improving your culture for safety.

You and your leaders need to have a vision that brings everyone together in ways that recognize individuals as a valued member of your work community. But, part of helping people to understand their value requires obtaining their opinions towards critical dimensions of safety that support your vision. 

Great organizations realize that objective leading indicators obtained through survey tools are critical to sustainable EHS success.  In particular, various safety climate measures help to support the vision in very real ways. 

And when I talk about measuring the vision gap, I’m speaking about the specific ways your vision is supported and the variety of differences in viewpoints (and actions) at various organizational levels.   These very important gaps need to be assessed through well-designed metrics and acted upon.

Where Are Your Gaps?

Think about the statements below and how they support your vision.  Try to understand the perception gaps that may exist between your senior management, mid-level managers, supervisors, and your workers.  Each individual will have a different view toward the question being asked.  Obviously, the greater the separation in views, the more risk you may be accepting.   

  • What gaps currently exist when it comes to required resources such as materials, tools, equipment, and facilities?
  • How broad are your gaps when it comes to the control of workplace hazards, job pace, and acceptability of risk?
  • What kinds of views are relevant to supervisory support and regular forms of communications?
  • When there are production and scheduling demands, is safety just as important as when things are steady, unhurried, and without crises?
  • What views exist with regard to the overall support and commitment from your top organizational leaders?

Moving Forward

With nearly 30 years of safety climate research and experience, I can tell you with great certainty that each of the above types of questions often reveals important gaps that have to be closed through hard work and more engagement. 

When I measure these and other perception gaps, it’s important to realize that the larger ones will often harm organizational trust, focus, open communications, and the everyday motivation of your workers.

Supporting your vision for safety can be done in very practical ways. However, what your people think and do, at different organizational levels is also very important to understand. 

Sadly, I’m wondering if the West Fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas had a serious vision for safety. 

And I’m now thinking, their catastrophe may have never occurred if their leaders fully understood the importance of safety and the kinds of proactive metrics that would have allowed them to close their own vision gap.

Do you have a clear and compelling vision for safety?  Are you measuring, assessing, and closing your safety perception gaps? Tony Dungy had a vision for great success and worked tirelessly to close his gaps.