Being Proactive: Red, Green & Blue Money – It’s Not What You Think

E035_Being Proactive: Red, Green & Blue Money - It's Not What You Think - Guest Andrew Burton

Episode 035

Jul 12, 2023

Today's Episode

A warm welcome back to Andrew Burton, our guest co-host on today's episode, while Nuala is working in Türkiye.

Andrew and Karin have been working on a global safety leadership project for the past three years [which continues to this day] and co-hosted episode 021, where they spoke about safety culture and metaphors and shared a story about the safety culture 'vibe' on one particular cohort they were facilitating.

Why People are Reluctant to be Proactive

[Listen at approximately 00:00]

What is it about being proactive that we find challenging?
Do we like being reactive?

Have you ever wondered why we struggle to be proactive despite hearing constant reminders to do so? Everyone encourages us to take action and be more proactive, but we often fall short when it comes down to it. It's an interesting question to ponder.

The truth is, it's not that we [humans] don't want to be proactive. When we think about our safety or accomplishing specific goals, we might say, "I just don't have the time for that right now." Our busy lives and competing priorities steal our time, leaving little room for proactive actions. It's a common situation that many of us face.

Two things come to mind when it comes to being proactive:

(1) our individual tendencies and (2) the allure of being reactive.

As individuals, we often find it easier and more satisfying to be reactive. Let's say we start our day with a plan to be productive and effective. But then an email pops up, demanding our attention with a problem to solve or an urgent request.

And just like that, we shift gears and become reactive.
We enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with solving problems in the moment.

The immediate gratification and the opportunity to help others are why we tend to favour reactive behaviour. When we arrive at work or face any situation, we might have a list of planned tasks or goals in mind. However, when something urgent arises, it takes precedence. It feels like we need to address it right away, even if it means putting other important tasks on hold.

Red, Green & Blue Money

[Listen at approximately 04:26]

Sometimes, urgent things take over our focus because they have a time limit attached to them.

Especially when we interact with people closely connected to customers, their immediate requests tend to grab our attention. We might only hear the urgency and not consider the bigger picture or the long-term impact. It's completely understandable how this reactive approach persists.

However, there are moments when we reflect on our day and feel like we still need to accomplish something.

We may have been busy dealing with immediate issues but haven't made progress. When it comes to making changes for safety or taking proactive action, time and resources are often cited as barriers. The demands of the job can easily overshadow our proactive intentions.


I started thinking about how I could help people shift their perspectives. I remembered a client I worked with in the past who had an interesting management system. It involved categorising losses, not just related to safety but any loss, into red, green, and blue money.

RED MONEY represented the direct costs of fixing or replacing broken equipment.

GREEN MONEY accounted for the consequential losses that could result, such as losing a contract.

However, the most crucial aspect was the BLUE MONEY. It represented the small amount that could have been spent upfront to prevent the loss from happening in the first place.

This system challenged people to think proactively. It showed them that investing resources beforehand could prevent significant losses in the long run. It also highlighted that the resources needed were often smaller than initially perceived.

When people claim they need more time or resources to be proactive, they often realise that it might not have been as big of a challenge as they thought when something goes wrong.

This management tool pushed individuals to make proactive decisions and allocate "Blue Monies."

E035_Being Proactive: Red, Green & Blue - Image

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

[Listen at approximately 08:02]

Let's reflect on the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mindset and how it influences proactive behaviour.

It encourages you to consider the importance of pre-job planning and leading indicators in your everyday activities to achieve successful outcomes. Pre-job planning is likened to "Blue Money," emphasising that investing time and effort upfront can have a positive impact.

Sometimes, you can overlook certain aspects like JSA's and permits for smaller tasks, assuming they're unnecessary or time-consuming. However, it's crucial to realise that neglecting them can lead to undesirable consequences (Green Money or Red Money).

By shifting your perspective and recognising the value of investing upfront, you can transform your approach from a transactional mindset to a more transformative one.

A Simple Message

[Listen at approximately 09:21]

It's a relatively simple yet powerful message:

Measure the loss and reflect on the investment needed to prevent it from happening.

  • It prompts you to ponder how effectively you prioritise pre-job planning and communicate this message to your team;
  • It challenges you to question whether you're truly engaged or just going through the motions; and
  • It urges you to think about the personal cost of growth and improvement.

The concept of "Blue Money" becomes fascinating when applied to enhancing your interactions with your team and taking a proactive approach.

It acknowledges the existence of biases and assumptions and emphasises the importance of active listening in your role as a leader. We all experience moments of forgetfulness, but this underlines the significance of daily pressures. These pressures often push you towards a reactive mindset.

How Can You be More Proactive in Changing the Situation?

[Listen at approximately 12:28]

So, how can we become more proactive in changing the situation instead of relying on others to solve the problem?

The idea of Red, Green, and Blue Money can also be applied to what we call conversational waste.

Think about the conversations we have, whether in team meetings or pre-job discussions. Leaders must ensure clear communication and that instructions are understood correctly, especially in diverse environments.

Conversational waste, which includes repeating information, misunderstandings, or assumptions, can have significant costs across different organisations and industries. When conversations go wrong, it can lead to financial losses or negative consequences.

As safety leaders, investing extra energy and time in reducing conversational waste is essential.

Interestingly, this doesn't require additional time or money; in fact, it can make the overall process more efficient. The focus should be on achieving the desired outcome, and addressing conversational waste plays a significant role.

Proactive Approach Examples

[Listen at approximately 13:58]


Reflecting on our approach when running workshops, our primary goal is to prevent setbacks or failures and ensure that participants get the most out of the sessions.

We put a lot of effort into setting the stage for effective conversations and creating an environment where people feel comfortable and confident to contribute, whether explaining how tools like Howspace work or establishing team agreements.

All these upfront efforts can be seen as investing in the workshop's success.

Sometimes, there might be some frustration from participants who wonder why we have yet to start. However, it's essential to understand that critical work has already begun. By taking the time to prepare and address potential challenges, we are laying the foundation for a smoother and more productive experience.

It is interesting how team agreements and rules of engagement play a significant role in this process. It's about something other than needing considerable time, money, or energy.

Instead, it's about making small changes, even just 1%, that can have a significant impact. We're even considering using "Zones" instead of "Money" to shift the focus away from financial connotations and highlight the different areas we're investing in.



Let me share a simple story from one of the clients I've been working with to illustrate this point.

During a safety meeting, someone decided to empower the group by asking if there were any safety concerns to discuss. Surprisingly, there was silence, and nothing came out of the meeting.

After some reflection, we realised that participants had never been given the opportunity to voice their thoughts before and may have felt unsure about speaking up.

To address this, we tried a different approach the following week. Instead of expecting immediate verbal responses, we provided paper for participants to jot down their ideas.

The incredible response showed the value of investing in creating a safe space for everyone to contribute.

This example demonstrates the power of taking a proactive approach and not assuming that silence means everything is fine. Remembering that no one-size-fits-all solution is essential and being open to different strategies can lead to better outcomes.

Ways To Be More Proactive

[Listen at approximately 17:16]

There are multiple ways to approach being more proactive and effective, and more often than not, small actions make a difference rather than grand gestures.

It's about seizing the smaller moments.

From a facilitation perspective, it involves shifting the focus from everyone speaking at once to allowing individuals their own processing time, whether through pen and paper or utilising virtual platforms like ours.

The vital thing to note is that it doesn't always require significant changes.

It's about considering how we can reduce conversational waste and give people the time they need to think, as we all process information differently. These seemingly simple yet sometimes challenging elements can be attributed to what we now call the Blue Zone.

We're getting closer to addressing the question:

Why don't people invest the time and effort to be proactive?
Why do we tend to prefer being reactive?

  • The answer lies in the fact that when we're reactive, we see results, even if they may not always be the desired outcomes.
  • On the other hand, when we try to be proactive, the results are not immediately visible.

For instance, in the proactive decision to improve and engage in weekly safety meetings, when it didn't work as expected, we could have found reasons to avoid such meetings and resort to reactive actions. To foster a proactive mindset, we need wins, positive feedback, and tangible effectiveness that make us feel good about our actions and show results.

Through experiencing these outcomes, we become willing to try again or explore other proactive approaches.


My mother always wanted to write a novel, especially since her sister was a novelist. However, she never took the initiative to start. In a conversation with her, I challenged her by saying,

"Mom, you may never write a novel, but I bet you could write one page a day."

It's similar to the idea of finding that one small thing that, over time, becomes incredibly powerful. Ironically, she never wrote that one page either.

Nevertheless, it highlights the importance of having the desire to make a change, which is sometimes the missing ingredient in the Blue Zone we mentioned earlier.

Ultimately, it's about wanting to be more and being the change we wish to see.

In Summary

[Listen at approximately 20:00]

👉🏼 Embrace the Blue Zone as a proactive approach:
Embrace the concept of the Blue Zone as a proactive mindset and approach. It's about thinking ahead, considering possibilities, and taking actions that contribute to positive outcomes.

👉🏼 Reflect on the Red, Green, and Blue zones:
Take a moment to reflect on the different zones—red, green, and blue. Recognise the red zone as a reactive state, the green zone as a safety net for considering potential outcomes, and the blue zone as a proactive and transformative space. Reflect on how you can shift towards the blue zone in your actions and mindset.

👉🏼 Cultivate a proactive mindset:
Understand that being in the blue zone doesn't always require extensive time and effort. Explore adopting new perspectives, making small changes, and thinking more proactively to create meaningful outcomes.

👉🏼 Explore Edward De Bono's six thinking hats:
Have you heard of Edward De Bono's technique called the six thinking hats? It offers different modes of thinking for various aspects of problem-solving and decision-making. Consider the role of the Blue Hat, which encourages generating ideas and envisioning future possibilities.

👉🏼 Seek support from facilitators and coaches:
If you're seeking guidance or support in fostering a proactive approach, reach out to us

Andrew Burton ~ LinkedIn / Website
Karin Ovari ~ LinkedIn / Contact

We can provide valuable insights, engage in meaningful conversations, and help you navigate the path towards a more proactive and effective way of thinking and acting.

👉🏼 Share your insights:
If you have insights or clarity on the relationship between the Blue Zone and De Bono's Blue Hat concept, feel free to share your thoughts with us via our website ChatBot. Your input can contribute to a deeper understanding of these concepts and foster a collaborative learning environment.

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.

Scroll to Top