Culture Matters

(why - what makes the difference)

TODAY EVERYONE DEALING WITH SAFETY SPEAKS ABOUT THE HUMAN ELEMENT. ONLY A FEW UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS. AND EVEN FEWER KNOW HOW TO USE IT TO PREVENT ACCIDENTS AND IMPROVE PERFORMANCE.

Our voyage started in the late 1990s, when the question was raised: how safe a safe company is compared to a less safe one. This was answered in a PhD thesis describing the statistical distribution of safety for different companies. Five cultural maturity levels have been proven to explain differences in safety, in terms of both how things are done in the organization and the safety performance manifested by the actual frequency of incidents, non-compliances and even cover-ups.

PROCEDURES AND COMPETENCIES ARE IMPORTANT. BUT WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IS WHEN WE GET BEHIND BLAME, SHAME AND MISUNDERSTOOD LOYALTY TO ADDRESS THE REAL UNDERLYING PROBLEMS.

It is neither the management system nor the competence in the organization that makes the difference. We see that in most incidents, the failures* were well known long before the incidents took place. For some reason, these failures were not addressed or the people who spoke up were not listened to. Hence, we describe cultural maturity as how the culture supports the early detection and management of failures before they escalate into incidents. This involves the attitude to failures, how leaders create an open environment and how colleagues care for each other. *A failure is defined as a deviation from the expected, desired or required result.

WHILE OTHERS ONLY TRAIN ORGANIZATIONS TO DO THINGS RIGHT, WE TRAIN THEM TO HANDLE SITUATIONS WHERE SOMETHING GOES WRONG.

To improve in cultural maturity, the medicine must match the problem at hand. For example, in an immature culture, building trust is key, while cross organizational collaboration is more relevant for a mature culture. To make changes, we combine a top-down leadership-driven approach with a bottom-up approach, creating engagement in the organization. All our interventions are based on transformational leadership. Instead of telling people what to do, our improvements are built on involvement, engagement, inspiration and reflection.

IMPROVING ROUTINES WILL NOT MAKE A REAL MARK ON YOUR BOTTOM LINE. IMPROVING YOUR CULTURE WILL.

Our interventions are tailor-made to focus on what it is that makes the difference. Therefore, it should be no surprise that improvements create significant benefits. First of all, the incident frequency is reduced by 50% for each step up to a new maturity level. This means fewer incidents, fewer injuries, less damage and less downtime. Hence, in addition to the ethical responsibility, the business case for these improvements is better than for most other opportunities.

failure quotes