Creating a Strong Culture of Safety
In our work as consultants, we hear statements like, “we need to change the culture,” every day. Any leader will tell you that culture plays a strong role in the success of their organization, especially when it comes to safety. Culture will either reinforce the changes you’ve introduced or it will diminish them. But as we all have observed, “knowing” the importance of culture doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re building a strong culture within your organization. We’ve done extensive research on this topic. Below you’ll find some of our best insights into what makes “safety culture” work within organizations.
Video: What is Safety Culture?
In this video, Dr. Tom Krause defines the difference between “organizational culture” and “safety culture,” and explores how these two types of culture affect safety within an organization.
What is Organizational Safety?
The field of “organizational safety” has emerged over the past 20 years or so, mainly from the work of James Reason. The name “organizational safety” recognizes a central insight of relevance to those who want to understand and accelerate safety performance improvement. The insight is that getting safety right means getting the organization right. Safety excellence follows from organizational excellence.
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Why Can’t We Get Culture Right?
Organizations usually miss a crucial piece when they try to assess their culture: the sense of pride, meaning, and purpose that employees derive from their work. Where is it on the survey? An analytic analysis won’t touch it. It isn’t in the top layer data a company might gather when they try to understand the organization’s culture. It comes from loving your work.
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Chapter 4: Culture Sustains Performance – For Better or Worse
Leadership stimulates growth and safety improvement in organizations; culture is the mechanism that sustains it. Culture will either reinforce the changes you’ve introduced or it will diminish them, depending on the values, beliefs, and behaviors that leaders have engrained in your organization. The fourth insight in our book, 7 Insights into Safety Leadership is that leadership stimulates safety improvement, but culture sustains performance.
Developing an Organizational Culture Assessment Tool for Safety
Dr. Tom Krause and Kristen Bell have a long-standing commitment to validating culture assessment tools. They are particularly proud of the work we did in the 1990’s with psychologist Dr. David Hofmann, to identify characteristics of organizational culture that predicted safety performance. The innovation process was high-quality and highly efficient: It began with a review of published academic research. New research needed only to select, model and validate a set of scales that would become an effective organizational culture assessment tool for safety.
Organizational Culture Assessment Tool for Efficiency and Effectiveness
A senior manager at a major oil & gas company strongly believed that retirement of the baby boom generation, combined with his organization’s strong dependency on process and systems, was creating problems for efficiency, effectiveness, and safety throughout the business. He hired Kristen Bell to work with his team to develop and test his hypothesis so that they were assured of having valid and reliable data to inform an improvement strategy. A series of interviews and productive exercises provided the basis of a solid assessment tool.
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