Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Secret Path to Employee Engagement

What were they thinking? Before I reveal the secret path to employee engagement I have a new topic for the “What were they thinking” section of my blog post. What were they thinking when the developed the cheap plastic bags used in almost every grocery store in the US? I can speculate that their objective was to reduce the cost of a bag but I am certain what they were “not thinking” about was the impact on the environment. The other day I turned left onto a road that had an open field on one side and a large Dominick’s grocery store on the opposite side. The field had at least 50 empty plastic bags strewn across its surface. They were hung up on the remnants of last year’s soybean stalks blowing in the wind like symbolic flags of a country that cares more about profits than the environment. Contrast that to the Island of Maui. My wife and I escaped the Chicago weather by spending some time there after the Christmas holiday season. We did not see any discarded plastic bags hanging on tree limbs, fences or the foliage for cheap plastic bags are illegal. An ordinance was passed in 2008 and took effect in January of 2011. I believe the rest of our country should follow Maui’s lead and starting today each of us should begin to carry our own bags to the grocery store. Interesting how the unintended consequences, of what was at one point in time a good idea; can quickly destroy the benefit of the original idea. What do you think?

Now onto the big reveal! The secret path to employee engagement is to focus each and every employee on the continuous improvement of safety. I know you already have a safety program - but the focus of that program is safety compliance – compliance to OSHA’s or some other regulatory agencies regulations. Last week I conducted a Lean Safety workshop at a facility in Rockford, Illinois. My task, as defined by the managers who hired me, was to begin to turn their safety culture toward one where employees were engaged in coaching each other in safety improvement. Coaching rather than policing each other is a big change in safety thinking for most companies. That is because compliance based safety is a top down directive activity that leaves those responsible looking and often feeling like police officers. Safety compliance is predicated on a parent child relationship and too often relies on discipline, or at least fear, to drive compliance throughout the organization. Have you ever heard someone say, “We need to send a strong message to all of our employees!” when discussing the type and duration of discipline for a safety violation? That statement can easily be translated into “We need to drive fear throughout the workplace to make sure everyone is compliant with the safety regulations.” One of W. Edward Deming’s 14 management points is “to drive fear out of the workplace.” Every action management takes either builds or tears down the level of trust. How can any management team possible hope to change the safety culture in a business if they use fear as a tool to drive safety compliance? So instead, why not harness the creative energy of all employees by leading them in a cultural changing trust building activity to make safety improvement as important as safety compliance is to the business.

Safety improvement activities, like those defined in the workshop in Rockford, engage people in proactive safety improvement driven by the desire to improve safety – nothing else. Each attendee committed to one of three tasks at the end of the workshop day. They could:

1. Conduct multiple lean safety gemba walk during which they would engage and coach another worker to define opportunities to make the work of that individual safer and easier.
2. Commit to practice a pre-defined safety standard work practice that would demonstrate to all their safety commitment.
3. Meet with others and define a suggestion to fundamentally change the current safety program.

When I return in mid-February each workshop attendee will do a report out on their activities and the outcome of those activities. It will be the start of a safety culture change - the secret path to employee engagement and continuous improvement.

I will be facilitating an AME sponsored public 2-day Lean Safety workshop at a Starbuck’s coffee roasting facility in Minden, Nevada the last week of February. If you want to learn more about lean safety and engaging you staff in safety improvement visit the AME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence) website to register. http://www.ame.org/events/lean-safety-0
I hope to see some of you there. Stay safe!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How will you view safety in 2013?

Your safety program is mostly likely a compliance based program. Requirements set forth by OSHA and other safety regulators have defined the safety focus for most businesses - to comply with the regulations intended to keep those in harm’s way safe while on the job. My mission for the last three years, since the publication of Lean Safety, has been to change how people think about safety. My background as a lean champion freed me from the traditional view that a safety program is only a vehicle used to deliver compliance. My view is that you can also use your safety program to engage employees in the continuous improvement of safety, a proactive effort to reduce injury risk, and by doing that you can advance your lean efforts.
In 2012 I was given the opportunity to present the Lean Safety story to many people. My opportunities to touch people and change their view of safety ranged from organized events like workshops and conference keynotes to chance meetings on the golf course. If you know me, you know it is hard for me not to share my passion for I believe I can change how the world views workplace safety. In an attempt to change your thinking in 2013 I thought I would share a few comments from some of those I influenced in 2012.

In March and again in May I visited the UK to conduct 2-day Lean Safety workshops. Following are two comments from attendees.

“During your seminar, what I took away in particular was that if you observed the way people work (lean safety kaizen event), then this would lead to an improvement of not only safety, but also improvements in the process itself leading to lower costs and more effective operations”.

“From my point of view it was an extremely worthwhile exercise and certainly I got a lot from it personally and also some great improvement opportunities for the business”.

A week after a two-day Lean Safety event in Portland, Oregon a site lean champion noted:

“We had another safety kaizen this week in our paint and pack department and we used the tools taught during the workshop. The week prior (to the workshop), people were questioning why we were holding an event in the department. This week, we had to extend the event an extra day in order to complete all of the action items. We are learning how to see safety opportunities”.

A survey question from the same event (What is your biggest take away from this Executive Forum?) provided these responses:
• We can use our current monthly safety team walk to focus on a continuous improvement event for a specific area (deep vs. broad).
• Operator involvement is critical. Improving safety will more than likely improve the process.
• How to make safety and Lean come together.
• Don't blame the person, blame the process.

Late September I traveled to Australia where 2-day workshops were held in the Melbourne and Sydney areas. A survey question (What was your key learning?) resulted in these responses at the Sydney event.
• Make time to go look and see rather than react to an accident.
• Tools that can help to engage the workforce in thinking Lean Safety.
• Teamwork – go to the shop floor and invite others to share the safety journey.
• Tools to engage the workforce in safety improvement.
• Lots of tricks and tools to use when I return to work. Engage people!! Kaizen!!
• A structured process to target and remove potential injuries.
• Safety is a way of engaging workers in the lean culture.
• Putting safety first in improvement (efforts) rather than always focusing on productivity
• Use the operator’s knowledge on the (lean) journey.
• The power of engaging the workforce in identifying and implementing solutions.
• That I need to get the operators more involved and set aside time (for improvement efforts).

Responses from the Melbourne event survey question, what was the most effective part of the workshop, were:
• Focus on teamwork, engagement, respect and motivation
• Engagement and practical exercises
• Teamwork – lots of ideas!
• Applying lean to safety
• Shop floor observations
• Learning more about lean and how to be a better coach
• Going to the factory floor and actually seeing what can be improved
• Being in the workplace, working with people
• Practical part in the factory
• Being out on the floor, because it converts theory to practical application

Events were also held in Shanghai, China, Donetsk, Ukraine, Port Hope, Ontario, Mason, City, Iowa, Calgary, Alberta, Elmhurst, IL, and Chicago, IL. The feedback from the attendees is always as above. People learn to see safety differently and they leave with an understanding that their lean and safety success is dependent on engaging their workforce. I hope our paths cross in one of the Lean Safety events planned in 2013. Stay safe!