May 18, 2018

Overcoming the Conflict Between Safety and Production: Part 3 – Degradation of Organisational Capability

I’m excited to let you know that since writing the last article, the American Society of Safety Engineers has informed me that my chapter, “Risk Leadership – A Multidisciplinary Approach” will be published in Safety Leadership and Professional Development. The launch will be held at their international conference in June 2018. The chapter presents the Entropy Model which I shared in “Overcoming the Conflict between Safety and Production PART 2: Systems Degradation: A New Category of Risk” posted on 4 May 2018.
In this article, I’d like to apply the Entropy Model to show the impact of degradation of organizational capability, specifically focusing on leadership, with future articles talking about the other pillars of capability.
Organization capability is built on leadership, competencies, robust management systems and ‘resourcefulness’. This is shown in the blue vertical box in the figure below. (Note: In Productive Safety Management, 2003, the concept of ‘resilience’ was termed ‘resourcefulness’.)
In a perfect world, shown by the left hand blue column, economic constraints do not exist so maximum capacity and performance can be consistently achieved. In the real world however, businesses face resource and technological limitations. This is illustrated as residual risk – the green horizon block. The concept of residual risk, which is well understood in the safety discipline, is therefore a business risk and ongoing inhibitor to overall performance.

Figure: The Impact of Loss of Capability on Production, Quality and HSE Performance

The Impact of Loss of Capability on Production, Quality and HSE Performance
Adapted from Mol, T., 2003, Productive Safety Management, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. 
How can leadership degrade? I’ve observed the following examples in organizations:
  • Lack of support from senior management when a manager or supervisor loses confidence due to:
  • Fears about his/her performance and ability to deliver on production, quality and safety objectives concurrently
  • Inability to adapt to change
  • Development of sub-cultures within teams that are contrary to the desired organizational culture or that undermine the manager/supervisor
  • Inability to identify the underlying root causes of seemingly unrelated incidents and losses
  • Avoidance of ownership of the performance of his/her team
  • Personal issues encroaching on work
  • Turnover of those personnel who are risk leaders within management, supervision and/or the workforce
  • Related to the point above, cutting personnel numbers too deeply during economic downturns
  • Internal conflict between departments with production, quality, maintenance, finance, human resources and safety etc all ‘pushing their own wheelbarrow’ rather than all focused on managing risk to achieve the business’ objectives.
With the degradation of leadership shown in the figure, the probability of production, quality and HSE-related losses rises until these become inevitable. The corrective action required is to:
  • Get back to basics ie management of risk using a multi-disciplinary approach
  • Re-build capability with a renewed strategy for upskilling middle managers and supervisors in risk leadership across all organizational departments
As the figure illustrates, corrective action needs to be followed up with practices that maintain capability otherwise the cycle of losses, corrective action, losses etc will be repeated.
What does it take to sustain optimal performance in production, quality and HSE? Maintenance involves:
  • Embedding consistent decision-making practices that support all objectives concurrently
  • Operational discipline to ensure agreed risk controls are consistently applied
  • Recognition of change and the ability to risk assess the impact on objectives, not just safety
  • A common strategic focus on managing risk to achieve production, quality and HSE incident mitigation concurrently
  • Recognition of ‘human resource’ risks such as degradation of leadership capability as a potential root cause of incidents and losses
  • An organizational and individual mindset transformation from ‘safety thinking’ to ‘risk management thinking’.

Tania Van der Stap, Founder and Principal Director of Align Risk Management
Tania Van der Stap is the Founder and Principal Director of Align Strategic Management Services Pty Ltd established in 2002, after having Productive Safety Management published internationally by Butterworth-Heinemann. The publication presents a strategic, multi-disciplinary management system for hazardous industries that ties safety and production together.
From 2002 to 2012, Tania provided HSE consulting services to Chevron’s Gorgon Project, Monadelphous, Baker Hughes, Fortescue Metals Group and Worley Parsons. Thereafter for 5 years, Tania took a HSE Manager’s role with AngloGold Ashanti Australia where she made significant improvements taking the department from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘proactive’ on the HSE journey.
In late 2016, her company was rebadged to Align Risk Management specialising in HSE Consulting and Risk Leadership Programs for managers, supervisors, HSE professionals and workers. Her chapter on ‘Risk Leadership – A Multi-Disciplinary Approach’ has been accepted by the American Society of Safety Professionals and will be published in Safety Leadership and Professional Development ahead of the ASSP’s 2018 Safety Conference.
In addition to Productive Safety Management being a substantial, refereed publication, Tania’s credentials include academic qualifications in Commerce and also Public Health and Safety.

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