This blog post is not about the famous Alistair MaClean’s all time hit book! Ofcourse, Circus is slowly getting extinct due to various animal rights, as well as virtual entertainment taking dominance.
As I complete 32 years of career, spanning over corporate as well as my own EHS consulting and entering the 33rd year this month, I can’t help to correlate the state of overall business that I see in 2018 is nothing but failing Circus show. Circus is all about mastery, trust, goodwill, interactions, get to know, body language etc and taking care of non human being like animals, pets etc as well as connect with them. This is what business/industrial activities are, which are lacking excellence to perform and getting blunted. Today it is all about Risk aversion, conformance, tunnel vision not to look beyond the next quarter.
Why things look dismal?
- Lack of Ownership
- Lack of Leadership
- Lack of Direction
- Lack of Vision, Values, Alignment
- Lack of Empowerment
- Lack of Trust
- Lack of Accountability
- Lack of Empathy
- Lack of Motivation within /external
- Lack of Engagement, etc.
Over all all the above factors can be summarised in one word” CULTURE”. I cover culture in a broader sense, from Quality, Productivity, Safety, Inventory, Delivery, Cost, People. They are all interlinked and one can not grow without the other! I have never seen one where safety record is excellent but Quality was average.
What can be done to make culture improve and thus make things work better in days to come? Tall order? But here is what I would think? I am not a pessimist, always see glass as half full. So I see hope. EHS is always linked to business growth. So, EHS professionals at least can do their bit as follows and hope tide turns around or go someplace
- Set strategy, vision, objectives. Work out what short, medium, long term vision looks like in the EHS area. Safety function has grown so much in the last 33 years, beyond injury tracking and prevention.
- Accountability, Empowerment is key factor. Set Goals with how to reach them, who shall do by when. Link rewards to achieving goals, objectives. Set metrics to track progress and maturity path.
- Work on Management team, Employees, workmen attitude to each other from EHS standpoint. There is a lot of mutual mistrust, lack of respect, not walking the talk by each side. So be a bridge between the two pillars. This can only happen when you EHS Professionals are visible at shop floor and get to know people and build relationship and trust. This would also call for being candor and not afraid to speak the truth. (Very poor in Indian context, our job security fear, we nod our head 99% to what our boss says, however idiotic it may be!) Management members also feel that everyone need to be treated with a stick with a sense of arrogance, I know everything attitude thrown in a lot and is common. The management team forgets, like “Mother in law, she was once a daughter in law” !!!
- Sense of urgency needs to be shown in taking decision. In many organisations the decision-making process is painfully slow worse than watching paint dry. Again this is linked to risk aversion as well as idiotic business, finance protocols that have crept in over last decade or so. I have written enough to beat the horse to death.
- To work the culture change, improvement, key aspect is communication! This is very poor. People just don’t get it! I have seen 10s of entities, where there would be 0 visual management on what is happening, absence of notice boards, posters, progress reports. Even meetings that run for hours would not be followed by minutes to work actionable etc. This is killer. Such actions when not done can easily douse the engagement of employees.
- Key aspect to work to improve culture is focus on Skills in people. Rules and knowledge would get you nowhere. Skill development is what makes people do their job better and differentiates people. Companies owe to their employees. PERIOD. The training and communication sessions need to make people better with feedback thrown in to validate the understanding in people on what is being said/taught.
- Work on systems, process, procedures. Link them to the communication, training, skill development aspects which makes employees learn and grow. See leaders in everybody! Leadership is made.
- Despite doing all this, there are always chance for failure, things not going as per plan. Work corrective measures, learning from failures, Incident investigation program not to find fault, but to find facts and work correction.
I hope these aspect go some way to turn things around over time! These are long drawn process.