What are the Benefits of having an Aligned Safety Vision?

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May 29, 2024

What are the benefits of having an aligned safety vision?

Asking this question on LinkedIn last week evoked fabulous comments, suggestions and challenges.

Being challenged is a great reason to dive deeper, research further and create a better self and joint understanding.

The Challenge & Response

"All safety visions must be aligned; otherwise, it's just a paper exercise and not a safety vision. I respectfully don't even know why this is a point of discussion. It's either aligned or non-existent."

Working with companies, we often experience a vision that needs to be aligned.

It may have started with everyone on the same page, and then change happens:

  • people leave the organisation
  • new people join the team
  • experience changes perspectives
  • the company grows
  • the company is going through tough financial times
  • there are other pressures or influences

The alignment slowly creeps from being on the same page to assumptions as people and things change, the vision becomes misaligned, and conflict follows.

Through research and experience, we will dive deeper into the points highlighted, with sense-making added as the starting point.

Sense-Making

Sense-making helps share the "Why" we need to change and the "Meaning" each person attaches to the words in the agreed vision.

An aligned safety vision provides a straightforward narrative communicating the "Why" behind the need for change.

This shared understanding is crucial for building a culture where safety is a core value. Priorities can change, and values are rooted in who we are.

- The importance of the "Why"

Understanding the "Why" is essential because it connects the safety vision to each person's core purpose and values.

It is crucial to remember that each person's purpose may be quite different.

When it makes sense, it is personal, and as a leader, you have had input into creating your safety vision. It is no longer seen as a 'nice to have' or 'paper exercise'. Then the safety vision makes sense and becomes 'the way we do things around here'.

Understanding why also helps us unpack any unintended consequences. By saying x, could it be understood differently and become a disimprovement? We unpack this concept in detail in Episode 33 of our podcast, where we look at The Unintended Consequences: An Improvement that ends in a Disimprovement.

 It is worth listening to to gain insight into this impactful phenomenon.

- The importance of the "Meaning."

Words and terms can mean different things to whoever is reading or hearing them.

When I ask you to think of a tree, what do you picture? Picture that tree in your mind's eye; if you can, draw your tree. We will come back to our trees later.

When Karin and I were studying Conversational Intelligence Coaching, we learnt that 9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark. That stat comes from Judith E. Glaser's research. A large proportion of missing the mark is we need to make the time to unpack the meaning behind the words we use in conversations and business.

We embraced the concept of Double-Clicking. We've found that double-clicking is like a universal translator in sense-making.

What is Double-Clicking?

When you want to open a file folder, you double-click on it with your computer mouse. That action reveals more details nested beneath it – maybe a couple more folders. You keep double-clicking until you reach the meat of the information you're after.

Instead of blurting out, "I don't agree with that word/statement," or "I don't quite follow," you can pose a question, "What do you mean by that?" or "Could you elaborate?"

This approach digs deeper, ensuring that both sides share the same understanding when the conversation wraps up. Even seemingly straightforward terms can mean different things to different folks.

Words and phrases mean something else to whoever reads it and can cover many different things.

Making assumptions that we all have the same understanding is dangerous and limits our efforts to work effectively and in the same aligned direction.

It's crucial to stop. Double-click and exchange perspectives on what we all mean. Only then will the way forward be a collective and aligned one.

Back to your tree, what did you picture?

My tree is a big, beautiful tree. I walk past it on weekends when we take the dogs for a walk. It is in full autumn colours and evokes a sense of endings and new beginnings.

What was your tree? Was it the same, similar, or different? Did it evoke the same emotions and feelings?

Our words create our worlds; we can only align through conversations when we are in a different world.

B008_What are the benefits of having an aligned safety vision - Autumn Tree Image

When everyone understands the reasons behind the safety vision, they are more likely to embrace and support it.

This sense of purpose can be a powerful motivator, driving employees to take personal responsibility for safety, look out for one another, and speak up when the safety vision is being compromised.

Clear Direction

An aligned safety vision acts as a flag in the ground, helping us ask,

"Are we moving towards or away from our goals?"

A clear safety vision acts as a flag in the ground for your organisation. It provides a consistent point of reference that helps everyone understand the goals and objectives related to safety. This clarity makes it easier to align day-to-day actions with long-term safety goals.

It also helps in decision-making, as leaders and crews actions can be evaluated based on whether they move the organisation towards or away from its safety vision.

Speaking up for safety is a right and a responsibility. As many have experienced and witnessed, it is sometimes easier said than done.

Having a safety vision that makes sense to all involved and impacted gives strength and confidence to every level of the organisation to say, “This is taking us away from our safety vision; we need a time out for safety”.

Boosted Morale & Retention

Employees feel valued and confident to speak up for safety, leading to a 40-70% reduction in accident rates.

When employees feel that their safety is a priority, it boosts their morale and engagement.

An aligned safety vision builds an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up about safety concerns without fear of retribution. This openness leads to a significant reduction in accident rates and severity.

High morale and a safe working environment also enhance employee retention, as people prefer to work for companies that value their well-being.

In high-hazard and high-reliability industries, potential crew make decisions based on a company's safety reputation. This decision is not only based on the available statistics; but also on the rumour mill and perceptions in the industry.

If you want good talent, being clear on your safety vision and seeing the vision being acted upon by current and potential crew members is a game changer.

Enhanced Productivity

A safe operation is productive, and fewer safety incidents mean fewer disruptions, leading to smoother operations.

Safety incidents can cause significant disruptions, leading to downtime and lost productivity. By reducing the number of accidents, an aligned safety vision ensures smoother operations and fewer interruptions.

Employees who are not worried about safety can focus better on their tasks, increasing efficiency and productivity.

For leaders, smooth operations give you the ability to have the time to focus strategically, retain greater control over your day without fighting fires, and be less side-tracked by site issues.

Cost Savings

Lowering the direct and indirect costs of incidents can save significant money.

Incidents have direct costs, such as medical expenses and compensation, and indirect costs, like lost productivity, training new employees, and damage to equipment or reputation.

An aligned safety vision helps reduce these incidents, saving the company significant money. Investing in safety upfront can lead to substantial long-term savings.

Do you understand the true cost of the current safety culture?

  • Work out the direct and indirect costs of the past 12 months’ incidents, reworks, and accidents.
  • Take these costs and work out the cost per worker.
  • Estimate the value of goods/services each worker must produce to offset this cost.
  • Add these two together, and you get the total cost per worker for your current incidents, which is the cost of your current safety culture.

Understanding the true cost of your current safety culture allows you the opportunity to quantify the potential savings in investing in your safety culture journey.

Competitive Edge

While we may dislike outdated safety stats, they influence potential clients' perceptions.

In today's market, companies are often judged by their safety records. Potential clients, partners, employees, and the public look at safety statistics to gauge a company's reliability and responsibility. While we might not favour outdated safety stats, they still play a role in business decisions.

A strong safety vision can improve your safety record, giving you a competitive advantage over others with less stellar records.

A reputation for prioritising safety can differentiate your company from competitors, making you the preferred choice for business collaborations and contracts. Clients and partners want to work with reliable and responsible companies, and a strong safety record is perceived as an indicator of these qualities that build trust.

This trust can increase customer loyalty and repeat business, providing a stable revenue stream and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

A strong safety vision can be a unique selling proposition in your marketing and business development efforts.

Highlighting your commitment to safety can set you apart in competitive bidding processes and negotiations, showing potential clients and partners that you are a forward-thinking and responsible choice.

Regulatory Compliance

Adhering to industry safety standards ensures smooth operations without fearing penalties or shutdowns.

Compliance with industry safety standards and regulations is crucial to avoid penalties, fines, or shutdowns. An aligned safety vision ensures that your company consistently meets these standards.

It simplifies compliance by embedding safety into everyday operations, reducing the risk of violations and the associated consequences.

Regulatory compliance avoids costly disruptions and positions the company as a responsible and compliant entity, which is attractive to clients and investors.

Optimised Operations

Safe operations are effective operations.

The famous Alcoa example illustrates this perfectly: by focusing on safety, Alcoa reduced its injury rates and saw a 90% increase in market value.

When safety is a priority, it drives efficiency and effectiveness throughout the organisation. Streamlining processes, and proactively managing risks, leading to better overall performance.

Companies with a strong safety culture are often at the forefront of innovation.

These companies drive operational processes and technology advancements by continuously seeking ways to improve safety. This commitment to improvement can lead to better products, services, and overall market performance.

A clear and aligned safety vision enhances safety and drives overall operational excellence.

Final Thoughts

When did your leadership team last review your safety vision and dive deeply into understanding:

  • What does this mean for each person?
  • What will our crew/teams say, think, feel, and sense when the safety vision lived?
  • What signs will we see in people, activities, and results that show we are no longer aligned?

There are many other conversations to be had along the way to ensure everyone is headed towards the same flag rather than towards where they may have unintentionally digressed.

Are your teams headed in the same direction? Or are you making assumptions that everyone has the same understanding?

Create limitless possibilities and improve operational efficiency by working effectively in the same aligned direction.

What are you waiting for to find out?

Let's get your team together to review and develop a strong, shared safety vision that everyone in the company buys into from the top down, propelling your organisation towards a safer future.

If you need more than an aligned safety vision and want to boost safety, reduce accidents, and drive fundamental improvements in your organisation, enrol your leaders in our 8-week Safety Culture by Design for Leaders programme.

Set your leadership up to be your Safety Culture Design(er)s and Leaders for Change.

Safety Culture by Design for Leaders programme

Boost your leadership impact and drive organisational success with our Safety Culture by Design for Leaders programme. Transform hesitation into confident action, prevent costly incidents, and build a culture of safety and obligation.

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