Culture survey not yet standardised

There is no recognised or standardised system to survey, measure or evaluate high reliability safety culture, despite decades of behavioural management.

HRO Culture surveys remain under development, and most organisations and behavioural or culture consultants rely on a various behaviour and culture models and metrics developed decades ago, said David G Broadbent, an Australian-based safety technologist and organisational psychologist, during a two hour live Skype video link to the High Reliability Organisations (HRO) seminar in Johannesburg in January 2011.

“Science and industry also still lack research and understanding of safety culture ‘diseases’, and there is no ‘prescription’ or set of remedies for ‘curing’ culture ailments”, Broadbent told the seminar hosted by Saacosh and Global Prospectus.

He reminded seminar delegates of the lack of case studies of cultural ‘root cause’ development. “We are like drivers looking in rear view mirrors, measuring safety, and culture, in retrospect, revealing mainly the influence of chance between disasters and ‘near miss’ incidents”.

Corporate culture surveys usually lack site specific elements. Corporate communication likewise contain merely generalised elements of attitude, sometimes reach deeper to the level of values, but rarely do they address the fundamental elements of localised organisational culture.

Injury rate stuck

Injury claim statistics of 2008, 2009 and 2010 shown by Broadbent, plot graphs as ‘straight as telephone lines’, indicating that lost time injury frequency rates (LTIFRs) are ‘stuck’.

The same safety or cultural improvement impasse is true in South African mining and most other industries. The statistical ‘rear view mirror’ is no help at all.

More localised data reveal merely when and where major incidents had by chance occurred, while the larger picture of loss incidents, remains as predictable as insurance policies.

Current general lack of safety performance improvement, make reliable culture survey and culture change models all the more urgent. The Transformational Safety Culture Improvement System developed by Broadbent, aims at addressing these factors.

Mindful culture

Culture is a series of linked beliefs, explained David G Broadbent during the live Skype video link to the High Reliability Organisations (HRO) seminar in Johannesburg.

High reliability organisations (HROs) overcome common human group impulses by cultivating a set of attitudes and habits, aligned to their goals and a value system.

HROs strive for an ‘informed culture’ that creates and sustains intelligent wariness, based on three co-existing organisationsl subcultures :

• Reporting culture: reporting errors and near misses
• Flexible culture: ready to adapt to sudden and radical pressures
• Learning culture: converting lessons into reconfigurations of assumptions, frameworks, and action.

Leaders change minds

Mindful leaders, said Broadbent, means to ‘pay attention in a different way’. Leaders should ignore information that confirm hunches, are pleasant, feel certain, seem factual, are explicit, and invite agreement, and instead concentrate on data that disconfirm, are unpleasant, uncertain, possible, implicit, and contested.

Among the cultural goods in leading organisations, is sensitivity to operations, involving;
• Speak up (knowledge lies between heads).
• Encourage others to speak up and ask questions.
• Check for comprehension; acknowledge what you hear.
• Be aware of how you react to pressure; tell others, verbalize your plans.
• Reduce pressure by changing importance, demands and abilities.
• Over learn new routines.

Another cultural element in reliable organisations, that should be subject to measurement and change, is commitment to resilience, being;
• Skilled at improvisation due to deep knowledge of basics and instant improvisation.
• Adopting an attitude of wisdom that acknowledges ignorance, avoids overconfidence and over caution, and seeks out warning signs.
• Practicing respectful interaction based on trustworthy communication and resolving differences while maintaining self-respect.
Resilience is about bouncing back from interruptions in the shortest possible time, with minimum loss of life, production, and ultimately, profit.

Reliable cultures defer to expertise, by shifting decisions away from formal authority to appropriately skilled people.

Mindful leaders are influential based on integrity, inspiration, engaging others, visionary, challenging, competent, involved, caring and supportive. These leadership drivers of workplace culture should be measured, and would probably form part of a future standard for culture surveys.

PHOTO; David Broadbent, an Australian-based safety technologist and organisational psychologist, addressed the High Reliability Organisations (HRO) seminar, hosted by Saacosh and Global Prospectus in Johannesburg in January 2011, via a live Skype video link.

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