Overcoming limiting mind-sets to improve safety

No one would deny that safety in the workplace is critically important. Most large industrial companies that face workplace hazards devote considerable resources to reducing injuries and incidents. They have a health, safety, and environment (HSE) management system in place and commonly include HSE incidents in annual reports. Yet safety performance at many organizations plateaus after an initial phase of improvement.

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This plateau often occurs because organizations attempting to shape safety culture put too much emphasis on tools and processes and pay insufficient attention to the underlying employee mind-sets that shape personal-safety behaviors and interactions.

In our experience, five mind-sets are particularly pervasive in organizations that struggle to improve their safety outcomes. By identifying these mind-sets and harnessing approaches to overcome them, companies can achieve rapid, sustained change.

Five limiting mind-sets

1. fear of blame: “if i report an incident, i’ll be punished”.

At a large transportation company, more than 60 percent of surveyed employees expressed concern about the consequences of reporting an injury. Upon joining field teams, new employees learn both from peers and supervisors the difference between a “true injury” and a “bruise”: the former should be reported and the latter should not. The message is clear—regardless of what these employees learned in their training sessions, it is best not to report too many incidents.

This scenario is all too common in organizations today. In attempts to keep employees from getting hurt, management establishes safety rules and sanctions for breaching them. However, one of the unintended consequences of doing so is that employees may end up underreporting noteworthy incidents for fear of being penalized. When incidents aren’t reported, management and workers lose the opportunity to learn from near misses and low-severity events.

In our experience, two actions can help reverse this mind-set. First, involving the workforce in determining how infractions are treated can help employees perceive penalties as appropriate. Second, and even more critical, is to create an environment in which employees are immediately rewarded or recognized for making safe behaviors and reporting incidents or near misses. This environment encourages reporting and gets people talking about not only unsafe acts to avoid but also desired behaviors.

Take, for example, a North American metal-making plant where safety performance was poor and employee engagement had reached an all-time low. The management team developed an intervention to break the entrenched culture of not stopping to ask for help in potentially risky situations. They gave out metallic tokens inscribed with the company logo to employees who voiced their concerns and sought assistance when they felt unsafe. At the end of their shifts, recipients could deposit the tokens into various bins marked with local charities, and the company would make a $5 contribution to the charity for each token. After a while, employees took such pride in the tokens that they started putting $5 bills in the bins so they could keep the tokens.

2. Disempowerment: “Safety is someone else’s job”

At an Asian chemicals manufacturer, hand injuries accounted for about 50 percent of all serious injuries. When the management team arranged for operators to wear protective gloves, the number of hand injuries declined only slightly. It turned out that many operators decided not to wear the gloves because they made it difficult to perform some tasks. When operators told their field managers the gloves made the work difficult, managers abdicated their responsibility to HSE specialists, who had made the rules. The managers said that these rules simply had to be followed.

In organizations that struggle to improve their safety performance, the lack of employee empowerment  is often omnipresent. It’s apparent in leaders who say that if employees followed the rules, they wouldn’t get injured; in team members who claim that incident rates would decrease if management invested in new equipment; and in safety specialists who complain that no one listens to their advice.

To increase employee empowerment, organizations can take a “managed safety” (as opposed to “regulated safety”) approach. That is, management can trust employees to use their own judgment in instances when strict compliance with safety rules either wouldn’t be enough to ensure safety or could introduce risk. This approach is most important in environments with significant variations in operational conditions, which is often the case in industrial settings. To overcome disempowerment, it is also important for leaders to provide positive feedback to teams that take it upon themselves to improve safety.

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But while root-cause investigations often reinforce the notion that safety is “in the hands of employees,” organizations must also consider management’s role in safety. In many organizations, these investigations end after leadership establishes that the employee made the wrong decision. Stopping short in this way allows management to feel there is little they could have done to prevent the incident, even though it is their job to ensure people are empowered to follow the rules. More thorough investigations consider potential factors behind the bad decision, such as fatigue or distraction. An even better approach takes a broader look at causes of injuries and incidents to identify structural levers that managers can use to make better decisions.

For example, an industrial company recently used advanced analytics to pull together data sources outside its HSE system, including data on production, human resources, and weather, to identify the primary factors that contribute to employee safety. Roughly 80 percent of the factors that were found to be statistically significant were neither measured nor accounted for in the company’s original investigation methodology. All factors were actually under the control of management—for example, shift duration and training frequency.

3. Trade-off: “Safe means less productive”

An operator at a steel plant was adding alloys to a molten metal ladle. He was asked, “How do you know you’re doing it right?” The operator replied, “It depends. I have a metallurgic procedure in the blue binder and a safety procedure in the gray binder.” The operator, however, was using neither.

This example illustrates that safety and productivity are often perceived as antagonists. Most employees come to work to “get things done” and feel satisfied when they hit their targets. Unless management signals that safety is the priority, employees may conclude that it is acceptable to focus on productivity at the expense of safety.

One obvious way to combat this issue is for leaders to develop clear safety standards that take existing processes into account while integrating safety and productivity requirements. When these dueling processes aren’t integrated, employees can sometimes end up juggling incompatible requirements as they try to do their work, as in the case of the two binders. The failure to integrate these elements can also damage cross-functional relationships. HSE specialists, for example, may feel frustrated by how little influence they have over the operating teams, while operations managers may feel frustrated by the HSE function’s lack of appreciation for the difficulties they face.

In the case of the two binders, a continuous-improvement team conducted a workshop with operators, metallurgists, and HSE specialists to develop a standard procedure, which was then displayed in an easy-to-follow format close to the work station. The improvements to safety and productivity were apparent, with weekly output up more than 50 percent.

When incidents aren’t reported, management and workers lose the opportunity to learn from near misses and low-severity events.

A plastics plant in Asia provides another useful example. A plant manager who had just joined the company banned a process for cleaning a critical heat exchanger after seeing how hazardous it was. Operators complained this rule would hurt productivity, which was indeed the case. Convinced that safety and productivity were not incompatible, the manager convened a cross-functional team to solve the problem. The result: a safer, faster, and cheaper cleaning procedure.

4. Fatalism: “Injuries are part of the job”

A review of a European basic-materials manufacturer’s safety culture revealed that the company had a high tolerance for risk. Some operators said that 100 percent safety was impossible and that risk was part of the job. A maintenance operator explained that he sustained cuts and bruises on the job regularly but didn’t report them because he considered them normal.

In focus groups for new employees at another industrial company, workers said they were shocked at the wide gap between what they learned in orientation and what happened in the field. Other employees had come to accept this discrepancy, telling the new employees to “forget the safety stuff you learned in the classroom, or we’ll never get anything done out here.”

This learned tolerance to risk has to do with the pervasive belief that some risks can’t be mitigated. This mind-set is common—even in organizations where managers claim to have signed up for “zero safety incidents.” These managers often haven’t made the effort to understand the implications of aiming for zero. For example, a provider of operations services set everyone’s injury target to zero as part of its annual goal-setting process. But managers did not put enough effort into spreading the idea that the company could achieve such an ambitious goal. People therefore believed this goal was unachievable, so they gave up on it and focused their efforts elsewhere.

Through our fieldwork and research, we’ve found organizations that make progress in eliminating this limiting mind-set work to align leadership and employees on what it means to have a zero goal. In doing so, they collaboratively calibrate expectations to this aspiration. For example, a metals producer, having adopted a zero goal, set stretch but achievable targets for injury reduction and expanded the set of HSE metrics to include positive, leading indicators such as the number and quality of field interactions. With the right context established, people committed to the goals and generally exceeded them.

5. Complacency: “Cultural change takes time”

Many managers assume it takes years for a culture to change . Even those managers committed to change often have low expectations about the pace of improvement, while the uncommitted engage in passive resistance—they wait things out. In either case, the results are the same: a failure to enlist key influencers, generate momentum, and deliver the early wins critical for successful transformations.

The symbiotic relationship between organizational health and safety

The symbiotic relationship between organizational health and safety

A change in perspective can have a big impact. For instance, a manager who has just had to inform a family that a loved one died in a work-related accident is likely to start talking about safety with a greater sense of urgency. However, managers can’t and shouldn’t wait for this kind of event to find personal meaning. Managers should work to find their own reason  for why safety is important to them, and it’s this perspective that would make them an effective promoter of change.

One chemical producer sold off a factory that ranked lowest in safety, productivity, and financial performance because it believed that the plant’s culture was irreparable. The new factory owner shut the plant down for three weeks to revamp operating processes, improve plant tidiness, fix high-priority safety defects, and provide much-needed training. Three months later, the factory had significantly improved its profitability and injuries were virtually nonexistent. The speed and magnitude of the turnaround in performance and culture were remarkable, and it was driven by leaders whose every decision and word communicated an unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of all involved with the business.

Four methods for shifting mind-sets

Identifying limiting mind-sets is a crucial first step toward building a sustainable safety culture. But to truly effect change in critical employee behaviors, companies need to take a second step: orchestrate a series of mind-set shifts. Four key actions are critical in successfully making this shift.

  • Reward safe behaviors. Organizations should encourage desired behaviors by providing positive reinforcement. When it comes to safety, companies tend to naturally focus on reacting to negative outcomes: accidents that happen and people who fail to follow the rules or make safe decisions. This focus is largely because positive outcomes are actually the absence of incidents—or when processes go as planned. Taking this action, then, can be counterintuitive and requires an intentional push from leaders. If management uses reinforcing mechanisms to keep emphasizing a new behavior, mind-sets will shift accordingly over time.
  • Clarify that safety is the priority. It’s critical to explain to all employees what is expected of them and why. For example, for an organization to have a positive safety culture, leaders must be explicit about there being no acceptable trade-offs between safety and productivity. Safety is paramount at the expense of productivity. That said, when safety is truly prioritized, productivity often follows accordingly.
  • Develop soft skills. While everyone needs to be trained in technical skills, they also need to have the right level of soft skills. Managers need to learn how to both identify systemic issues and provide an environment in which people can speak freely. Operators need to be able to identify hazards and control risk, as well as contribute to a positive, caring team environment. Self-awareness is also a critical soft skill, allowing people to recognize their behaviors and make a shift.
  • Role model behaviors from the top. No amount of frontline intervention will make up for a lack of support from top leadership and other individuals throughout the organization who, because of their expertise or personality, have the power to influence behaviors. Employee mind-sets often reflect those of their leaders  and influencers because role modeling, whether good or bad, eventually shapes a corporate culture. CEOs who start meetings by acknowledging how the company has performed against its safety goals since the last meeting send the right message about their commitment to safety.

Companies have a multitude of methods at their disposal for improving workplace safety. But building a deeply embedded safety culture by identifying and overcoming limiting mind-sets is key for improving safety outcomes in a sustainable way.

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4 keys to changing your safety culture.

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“Culture has the capacity to drive organizations to success or failure,” he says. “The decisions fostered by an unhealthy culture can disable the defenses of the best safety management systems and programs.”

In his September 2019  Business Class  column in  Professional Safety Journal , Susca examines the the influence of organization culture on occupational safety and health and identifies some key steps safety professionals can take to integrate safety into the business culture. 

1. Examine Process Health

In the business world, success is often measured by outcomes. What is truly important and reflective of safety performance, however, is not just the outcome of a process, but the process itself . Susca reminds safety professionals that a bad process can lead to good outcomes, so it’s imperative to examine how those outcomes are achieved.

It’s easy to assume that because workers got a job done effectively that they did so in a safe manner. By closing examining process health, you can learn about workers’ safety decisions and how conditions can be improved so that workers can do their jobs more safely and don’t have to take unnecessary risks.

“The first challenge for safety professionals is teaching executives the value of looking at risk rather than outcomes,” says Susca. “We all have to be experts in process health because If you’re always chasing outcomes, then you’re perpetually fighting fires.”

He adds that focusing on outcomes rather than processes can create an environment where decisions are made based on cost reduction rather than risk reduction, and that in many cases cost reduction actually increases risk.

“We’ve got to take people from outcomes to seeing risk first,” he says. “Risk is created by decision-making and the processes that result from that decision-making.”

2. Look at Hazards From a Business Perspective 

One of the greatest challenges safety professionals face is demonstrating how safety affects the bottom line. This may be due in part to a misunderstanding on the part of some executives about how safety impacts business performance. Susca urges safety professionals to go beyond explaining why a hazard is a safety concern and show executives the financial impact that hazard could have on the business.

 “You have to ask yourself why this hazard is valuable for the business,” says Susca. “By approaching hazards in this way, it forces you to examine the issue from a business standpoint.”

When stakeholders agree that a hazard could cause an injury or fatality, they can then assess why the hazard exists in the first place. Looking at hazards from this perspective allows stakeholders to determine whether having the hazard is in the best interest of the business not only from the safety perspective, but also from a cost and quality perspective. If it’s not, they’ve made a business case for eliminating that hazard. 

3. Anticipate Risks

So much of the work safety professionals do is centered around risk management. To change the culture and move organizations from a reactive to a proactive mind-set, Susca encourages safety professionals to not only address current risks, but also anticipate future risks and how those will impact the organization.

“Safety professionals need to think about where the next risk is going to be created and how risks that are perceived as static may change,” he says. “We need to be able to predict that and prevent it from happening.”

It’s important to recognize that workplace risks are dynamic and treated them as such. For instance, introducing a new employee into a process changes the risk. Safety professionals must consider and anticipate these changes so they can adjust accordingly and properly manage those risks.

One way that safety professionals can better predict future risks is to look at process health. By examining the processes, procedures and personnel currently in place, safety professionals can gather insight into how risks may change over time.

4. Train Your Leaders

In what Susca calls the “Value Tug-of-War,” there is often inconsistency between an organization’s philosophy about safety and the actual workplace conditions. Many organizations use the motto “safety first,” but that philosophy does not always align with the measures in place to protect their workers.

To effectively change the culture, leaders need to learn to value safety. It’s contingent on safety professionals to work with their leadership to understand what they want to achieve and how they want to get there. Safety professionals cannot hope to reach their organization’s safety and health goals if they don’t have a clear understanding of what those goals are.

“It is imperative that senior leadership understand the health and impact of the organization’s culture and lead culture transformation,” he says. “Their success is dependent on the management team’s capacity to carry the value and approach to the first-line supervisors and workers.”

Susca encourages safety professionals to start conversations with their leadership and ask them, “What does “safe” look like?” and get them to express that. From there, safety professionals can begin to understand their leadership’s safety philosophy and how everyone can work together to meet those objectives.

“Integrate safety in a way that’s meaningful to the business and be an expert at that,” he says. “Become part of the culture, be part of the solution and immerse yourself in the organization.”

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Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

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Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

  • May 11, 2022

Your safety culture is a reflection of your values and priorities and it’s something that your employees, customers and regulators will assess you on. And with today’s swift-changing business environment a safe work culture can be the most integral component in Organizational Development towards sustainability, governance and compliance initiatives.

While safety is a top priority at all companies, not all of them have imbued a strong safety culture. There are numerous things you can do to develop or improve your current safety practices and it all starts with creating a safety-conscious attitude.

Through this blog post, we’ll take you through the various ways by which you can build and fortify the safety culture in your organization.

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What is a safety culture.

Safety culture results from the shared beliefs, values and behaviors that guide an organization’s approach to creating a safe, healthy and sustainable work environment. Strong safety culture is grounded in a set of values, policies and practices and can be thought of as the collection of the behaviors and actions that every stakeholder take to ensure their safety and that of others.

A good safety culture exists when everyone, irrespective of the position or place, have inculcated a discipline to follow the rules and are inspired to work together for a greater, common good.

It’s the sum of all of the things that go into making a workplace safe, such as:

Safety policies and procedures: These are well-researched and documented guidelines on what one should do in certain situations. For example, they may include instructions for dealing with lifting heavy loads or using machinery safely.

Training & Coaching programs: Both Employees and Management leaders must be trained and upskilled on how to perform their jobs safely, including using equipment properly and be aware of associated risks , hazards, and control measures that are available.

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

Management commitment and leadership: Management plays a vital role in creating a safety culture by setting expectations for employees to follow safety policies and procedures, providing training when necessary, encouraging workers to use safe work practices on the job and rewarding workers who demonstrate good performance in this area.

10 Ways to Build a Safety Culture That Lasts

The development of a safety culture can be described as a journey, not a destination. It must be effectively managed over time, focusing on continuous improvement and reinforcement of critical behaviors. Here are 10 ways to build a safety culture in your organization.

Create Awareness About Safety Hazards

​​The first step to building a safety culture is to develop your awareness of the risks, hazards and control measures in your workplace. This will help identify and eliminate any potential problems before they become serious.

Once you have a clear picture of what could go wrong, you can start planning ways to prevent workplace incidents and improve the safety of your employees.

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

Make Safety a Habit!

In a siloed organization, it’s easy for people to fall into habits that put them at risk — like working alone or taking shortcuts when they’re pressed for time. Implementing behavioural change needs to happen from top to bottom starting with Leadership followed by in-person interventions with employees and contract workers.

This means that everyone needs to understand the concept of Behaviour Based Safety Observations, how to report incidents , take appropriate actions when they see a safety violation or potential hazard, and ensure that they follow all safety rules and regulations.

If you want people to report non-compliance, then it’s important that they know what constitutes a non-compliance. That means training them on what it means to identify compliance issues, recognize risks, know the hazards and consequences and take corrective measures appropriately.

Integrate Safety KPIs into Job Responsibilities

Make sure that everyone in the organization understands their role in creating a safe culture. This is especially important for frontline managers and supervisors. Create and integrate KPIs into OKRs and set safety-specific goals with recognition and rewards.

You need to ensure that every one understands the importance of safety and see it as part of their job description. You can do this by having regular safety meetings , where you discuss new safety policies and procedures and the actions every individual needs to follow according to the safety guidelines.

Reinforce the Right Behaviors

Your company needs to focus on behavior — what people do, not just what they say. You have to get people engaged at the highest levels of your organization, from executives to managers and supervisors, who set the tone for others on safety issues. You may want to refer some of the proven frameworks for habit-formation and behavioural change have been used by HR Managers and Coaches in instilling the right mindset for safe work culture.

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

Create A Feedback Loop

Feedback loops help us identify problems before they become big issues. If you want your organization’s culture to be strong and healthy, create feedback loops between employees and management through regular meetings or check-ins. Nir Eyal’s Hook model is an interesting insight in to habit-formation.

Develop a “No Blame” Culture

All too often, workers are afraid of retaliation when they point out potential problems or unsafe conditions in their work environment. This fear can lead to silence by employees who witness unsafe practices or situations that could lead to injury or illness. If you want your organization’s safety culture to succeed, you need people who feel comfortable bringing up concerns without fear of retribution.

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

When employees know they won’t be blamed for taking reasonable steps to keep themselves and others safe, they are more likely to report hazards and injuries, even if they were involved in them. Employees should feel comfortable reporting unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation from supervisors or peers — no matter who was at fault.

Recognize and Reward Positive Behaviors

You need incentives and rewards for those who promote safety within your organization. It’s important that these rewards be based on actual results, such as reduced injuries or illnesses, rather than simply rewarding everyone equally regardless of their performance in promoting safe practices.

You can provide employees with an online safety management tool like Safetymint through which they can report the safety incidents , violations and unsafe practices in the workplace. This will also help you easily keep track of the employees who promote safety practices and strive to make the workplace safe.

Develop a Top-Down Approach

The best way to develop a strong safety culture is through leadership from the top down. If leaders don’t support safety by example, their employees won’t either.

If you’re a leader and want to create a safety culture in your organization, start by asking yourself: What is my personal safety commitment? Can I model it for others? If not, why not? What can I do to change that?

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

Similarly, make sure that the other people at the top management are taking action as well. Ask them what they’re doing to build a safety culture in their departments or teams — and hold them accountable for their actions.

Regularly Measure the Level of Safety

An excellent way to measure progress is through quarterly surveys of employees about their perception of safety in their work environment. You can also conduct anonymous interviews with employees from different levels of your organization to find out what’s working well and where there are gaps in communication or training.

It’s important to measure performance against key indicators that reflect the health of your organization’s culture — such as turnover rates and injury rates. These metrics will help you identify areas where improvements are needed so that everyone feels safe at work every day.

It can be hard to keep track of the safety violations, conduct root cause analysis and measure the safety levels. This is where a simple, cloud-based tool like Safetymint can solve the problem.

With the guest user licenses offered by Safetymint, every employee can have the Safetymint mobile app installed on their smartphones and report safety issues instantly from wherever they are with minimal effort. This way, you can make it easy for the employees to develop a better working environment and also make use of the various features in the application to assess and identify hazardous or high-risk areas in your workplace.

Request a free trial of Safetymint to get started.

Safety Culture – What It Means And How To Build A Culture of Safety.

K Pradeep is the Founder and Head of Product Development at Safetymint

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What is Culture Change in an Organization and How to Implement it?

If you want to make a lasting change in your organisation, you need to focus on culture change.

Culture is the set of shared beliefs, values, and norms that determine how people behave when they interact with one another. It’s what guides employee behaviour and shapes organisational culture.

Culture change. It’s a big concept, and one that can be difficult to understand and even harder to implement.

What is culture change? How do you go about changing your organisation’s culture? And what are the benefits? In this post, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.

So, if you want to learn more about culture change and how to make it work in your organisation, read on!

What is culture change in an organization?

Culture change in an organization can be defined as the implementation of new beliefs, values, and norms, communication practices and processes within the organization.

Culture change often occurs in response to a major event or shift in the external or internal environment. It can also be initiated by new leadership within the organization or disruption in business due to new technology.

Culture change is difficult process, as it requires employees to adopt new ways of thinking and behaving. However, culture change can also lead to a more positive work environment and increased productivity. If done correctly, culture change can be a powerful tool for organizational success.

Why is culture change important in an organization?

Culture change is important in any organization for a variety of reasons.

First, culture shapes the behaviors and attitudes of employees. A positive culture can encourage employees to be more innovative, productive, and engaged. Conversely, a negative culture can lead to poor morale, high turnover, and low performance.

Additionally, culture change can help to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. A customer-centric culture can lead to increased sales and improved brand recognition.

A study by the University of Michigan found that companies with a positive culture outperformed their counterparts by nearly 30%. Culture change can help an organization to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, organizations need to be constantly evolving in order to stay ahead of the competition. Thus, culture change is essential for any organization that wants to remain relevant and successful.

How to implement cultural change in an organization

It’s always hard to implement changes in organizational culture but taking the following steps help you to streamline that process.

1. Define the problem that you want to address

Culture change is a daunting task. There are many factors to consider, and it can be difficult to know where to start. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. By clearly defining the problem you want to address you can increase the chances of success.

When defining the problem, be as specific as possible. You need to know:

  • what are the symptoms of the problem?
  • What impact is it having on the organization?
  • Why employees are struggling to meet performance expectations?
  • What are problems in employees behaviours i.e absenteeism, turnover, resistance to change ?

These can be signs that employees are not happy with the current culture and are looking for a way out. If any of these signs are present, it may be time for a culture change. The first step is to identify the root cause of the problem so that the correct solution can be implemented.

2. Assess the current culture and identify areas for improvement

In order to properly assess the current culture and identify areas for improvement, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • The values of the organization and how they are reflected in day-to-day operations
  • The way employees interact with each other and with customers or clients
  • The level of trust and respect that exists between employees and management
  • The level of transparency and communication within the organization

Once these factors have been taken into consideration, it will be easier to identify areas where the culture could be improved.

For example, if the organization values teamwork but employees often work in silos, there could be a culture of mistrust or competition. Alternatively, if the organization values customer service but employees are often rude or unhelpful, there could be a culture of apathy or indifference.

However, it is important to keep in mind that culture change takes time and should not be rushed.

3. Develop a plan for implementing change, including timelines and objectives

With careful planning and execution it is possible to execute meaningful change in organisational culture. It is important to develop a plan that includes specific objectives and timelines.

The plan of change must include specific set of activities with timeline and clear objectives. Having objectives and timelines makes everyone clear about why culture change is required and how and what needs to be changed and when.

It’s always better to include role and responsibilities in that plan so that everyone also know what they are required to do in making those change happen.

4. Communicate the plan to all stakeholders and get their buy-in

It is also essential to involve all members of the organization in the culture change process, from top executives to frontline employees. It is often necessary to gain the buy-in of all stakeholders before proceeding.

One of the most important steps is to clearly communicate the plan to everyone involved. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands what is expected of them. Additionally, it is important to solicit feedback and address any concerns that stakeholders may have. Only by working together can culture change be successfully implemented in an organization.

5.Encourage employees to embrace the new culture

There are a few simple steps that employers can take to encourage employees to embrace the new culture. First, it is important to clearly communicate the reasons for the culture change and how it will benefit both individual employees and the organization as a whole.

Second, provide employees with opportunities to get involved in shaping the new culture. This could include anything from brainstorming culture changes to implementing new policies or procedures.

Finally, make sure to celebrate successes along the way and recognize employees who are championing the new culture. By taking these steps, employers can increase the likelihood of successfully implementing a culture change in their organization.

6. Reward employees who adopt the new culture

Implementation of new values, norms, and practices can be met with resistance from employees who are comfortable with the status quo. In order to successfully navigate a culture change, it is important to reward employees who adopt the new culture. This sends a clear message that the organization is committed to the change and that employees who embrace the new culture will be rewarded.

Additionally, it is important to provide support and resources to employees as they transition to the new culture. This may include training on the new values and norms, as well as support in designing processes and practices that align with the new culture. By taking these steps, organizations can successfully navigate a culture change and emerge stronger and more cohesive than before.

7. Monitor progress and measure success of culture change

It is essential to monitor progress, take corrective actions and adjust the plan as needed. While change in culture depends on many factors so it is important to be prepared for bumps in the road. There are number of ways to measure success, but some key indicators include employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement. It is also important to look at changes in organizational culture, such as whether employees are more collaborative or innovative. By monitoring progress and being willing to adjust the plan, organizations can increase the chances of successfully changing their culture.

The challenges of implementing cultural change in an organization

There are many challenges that come with trying to shift the culture of an entire organization. However, it is important to understand the challenges that come with culture change before undertaking such a project

The first challenge is getting buy-in from employees. culture change can be viewed as a top-down initiative, and without employee support, it will be difficult to implement successfully.

Culture change can also be disruptive to daily operations, and it can take time for employees to adjust to new procedures and norms.

Additionally, culture change can be costly, both in terms of financial resources and employee productivity.

Finally, culture change can be difficult to measure, and it can be hard to tell if it is successful.

Final Words

It’s hard to implement culture change in an organization. By taking some logical steps, organizations can increase their chances of successfully implementing culture change. First, it is important to gain buy-in from as many employees as possible. This can be done through education and communication, emphasizing the benefits of the proposed culture change. Second, it is necessary to set clear and achievable goals. These goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic, and they should be aligned with the organization’s overall mission and values. Third, it is important to create a detailed plan for implementing the culture change. This plan should include milestones and timelines, and it should be designed to minimize disruption to employees’ daily tasks. Finally, it is vital to monitor progress and adjust the plan as needed.

About The Author

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Tahir Abbas

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Safety Culture and Organizational Change

Safety Culture and Organizational Change

By Gary A. Higbee

Want to change your company’s safety culture? Forget about culture and focus on the change.

Every company has a culture at the corporate level. In most corporate handbooks that culture is intended to produce similar cultures at each facility managed by the corporation. But we all know that’s not always the case. In practice, every site has a different culture. This can present a number of challenges for corporate-level safety managers to implement an effective safety system evenly throughout an organization.

Take a look at almost any organization that manages multiple facilities and you’ll see different levels of safety performance at each site. The culprit? Culture. In some cases a proactive safety culture leads to low injury rates and in others the SIF rate is frustratingly high year after year.

There are so many factors that go into producing a culture—age, gender, education, geography, local influences, and the interplay of a thousand tiny factors—that it is nearly impossible to tell what blend of causes are responsible for elements of a company’s culture. Culture can form at a glacier-like pace and feel just as difficult to move as a mountain of ice. It’s impossible to change culture overnight. To complicate things further, in the safety world you’re not just dealing with one cultural change. Every individual employee has their own unique safety culture, each facility in an organization has their own unique safety culture and the corporate office has its own culture. These cultures are often in conflict.

Despite these challenges safety leaders have one effective option to change a culture: forget about trying to enact a cultural change and focus instead on developing a workplace climate that takes safety seriously.

There are significant differences between an organization’s culture and their climate. The climate of an organization can be changed almost overnight. New safety systems, procedures, leadership changes can alter the work climate rapidly and effectively. Culture on the other hand evolves over time, often a long time. Those who wish to change an organization’s culture would be wise to first change the climate and then over time the culture will develop.

I’ve spent years studying safety and organizational change. When I speak about cultural change or lead workshops designed to develop a robust, effective safety culture much of our time is spent on what is required to manage difficult organizational change initiatives. It’s a pressing topic for many safety leaders and there are few ready answers.

However, one of the things I’ve noticed is that successful safety initiatives all follow the template for organizational change. Too often safety managers believe that their field operates under different rules than HR, operations and other corporate departments. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The safety profession has its unique challenges but it still follows the same guidelines that govern the corporate organization. By approaching safety change strategically it is possible to create a climate that is conducive to improving a safety culture.

Managing Complex Change Chart

There are five essential components to any type of successful organizational change.

Everyone in an organization needs to be aware of what is being changed and why. They need to know exactly where the organization is and, where it needs to go. Vision often comes from upper management, although I’ve seen cases of a vision originating from other levels of an organization too. When it comes to safety, the vision proposition should clearly articulate the ultimate goal of the organization’s safety efforts and how safety fits within the larger organizational structure. Are you striving for zero injuries? Do you want to make employees safer at home as well as on the job? Your vision should clearly set out the main priorities you plan to work towards.

Action Plan

Once a vision is established a plan of implementation is required. This plan has to be specific to the vision and must outline the practical steps that will be taken to achieve the vision. As such, it should answer the question, “What do we need to do to meet the vision statement?” The plan must include input from all affected parts of the organization. Because safety is a concern for every department within an organization, any safety-focused action plan should cover every employee in the company. Once established, this action plan will be a road map to success, and sticking to it will help to avoid false starts and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

The people who will execute the action plan must have the skills required to carry out the necessary tasks. For safety, this means that safety managers should have full working knowledge of compliance requirements and how human factors affect an organization’s overall safety performance. Workers should also be trained in both compliance and human factors. If the required skills aren’t present in the current workforce then employees will need to be trained or new employees hired to fill the gap. In many cases I’ve seen strong safety improvement plans fail due to a lack of skills.

Safety improvement requires management to dedicate sufficient resources—from financial support to necessary equipment and training time. Asking someone to perform a task without providing the required resources will likely set them up for frustration and anger, and could have lasting negative repercussions on an organization’s morale.

Perhaps the most important element in changing a safety culture is creating a positive value system. Employees often view safety managers as naggers who constantly look over their shoulder and tell them what to do. Consequently, this can lead to a negative view of a company’s safety program. However, if you can help workers understand your safety efforts empower them by giving them the skills and resources they need to stay safe, rather than controlling what they’re allowed to do, then they’ll begin to see greater value in safety and be more receptive to change.

Putting the Components in Place

Changing a corporate climate requires executives to concentrate their efforts on the factors they’re able to effectively influence. Fortunately, even a single determined executive can positively affect each of these fives items noted above. A vision and action plan are best crafted at the executive level, in consultation with key stakeholders throughout the organization. Budgeting is also part of management’s responsibilities, and organizational leadership always has the option to commit the time and financial resources for skills and safety awareness training.

Value is the most difficult to influence because every employee has a different value system. However, most people have similar personal safety agendas. They want to stay safe so they can coach their child’s softball game after work, do work around the house on the weekend, and stay healthy so they can provide for their family. This is why off-the-job or 24/7 safety programs are so important, and appealing to these common threads will foster a collective belief in the value of your safety program. For many organizations personal safety skills training is a critical component of demonstrating value and encouraging positive long-term change in organizational culture.

The five components vary in scope but they are all equally important. Without including all five in any change initiative you will have a hard time creating the climate you want, and long-term cultural change will be nearly impossible. It doesn’t matter how noble your vision is if you don’t have an action plan to carry it out. Trying to develop skills without resources is a fruitless exercise. And employees will remain skeptical of your efforts if you can’t demonstrate real value. But get all five components in place and you’ll be setting your organization on a path to safety success.

Common Roadblocks to Changes in Safety

Photo of a road block

A general apprehension develops every time a change initiative fails, creating a natural resistance to change for a large part of the population. No one wants to waste their time or be inconvenienced when they think something is bound for failure. This is one of the reasons many workers roll their eyes or yawn whenever a new safety program is announced—they’ve seen this act before and they know it usually fizzles out with little meaningful change.

There are four common roadblocks that often hold up safety initiatives that are otherwise poised for success.

Overemphasis on Compliance

The first hurdle is getting past the notion that regulation is the prime component of improved safety performance. Most safety initiatives are focused on satisfying a regulatory requirement issue. It may be our initial starting point but it should not be our only approach; taking a compliance-centric approach will reduce regulatory liability but as we become more compliant injury rates are less likely to improve.

Better regulatory performance and injury reduction are two separate goals and confusing the two is to treat the means as an end. It’s a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Any safety measure, from a tactile object like a handrail to a process like lockout/tagout, is only useful if it’s actually used. It’s possible for a facility to meet OSHA requirements by installing handrails, but if workers aren’t in the habit of using them they can still fall down the stairs.

Worse yet, production schedules can “encourage” workers to rush down the stairs and trip over their own feet—and there isn’t a single compliance measure that can eliminate the risk of rushing. The way we manage the workplace can actually create higher risk of error and injury. And unfortunately, many safety professionals prescribe to the notion that OSHA is the only effective way to reduce injuries, which means that our understanding of the problem isn’t clear.

The goal should be the elimination of injuries and reduction of risk, and I’m always disappointed when organizations resist using human factors training to combat at-risk behavior like rushing that cannot be addressed through compliance alone. This type of training looks at eyes on task, mind on task, reasonable speed of work, extended body position, etc., and can even augment regulatory compliance in some cases.

Status Quo Bias

Safety programs that are oriented towards addressing regulations have become the status quo for the safety professional and management in general. In fact, many organizational approaches to safety come from a bias towards the status quo. It’s such a big problem (and not just in safety) that it’s got its own name— status quo bias, which is an emotional preference for the way things currently are that can affect otherwise rational decisionmaking.

Change initiatives represent a path less traveled and by definition are a departure from the status quo. As such, they can potentially open safety professionals up to criticism from management asking, “You want to spend more money on what?!” to employees wondering why they’re being trained on something that isn’t required.

Conversely, sticking with the status quo presents little overt risk in terms of job security or professional reputation. But if the goal is to reduce injuries by as much as possible then it’s clear that the status quo bias must be overcome. If you stick with the status quo then you will only get status quo results.

Risk Perception

Photo and illustration of a class in progress

In this case the employee is evaluating the seriousness of the event based on the injury—the result. However, in the safety profession we evaluate the seriousness of the event by its potential. Making a change in our safety system based on a result like a small cut will meet natural resistance if the potential risk isn’t evident to all stakeholders.

The best way to address problems with perception is through education. Companies have a decent track record of teaching workers the mechanical functions of a change—like the ins and outs of new paperwork or processes—but spend far less time educating employees on the reason a change is necessary. At the outset of any change initiative, companies can secure employee buy-in by clearly explaining why the change is necessary, why it will be beneficial for employees and by answering any questions they have. Doing so will not only recalibrate workers’ risk perception but it will cut down on their resistance to change too.

Not-So-Common Sense

Many people believe safety isn’t difficult and to avoid getting hurt one only needs to pay attention to what they’re doing. I frequently hear safety professionals wondering why they should spend time and money on safety training when the issue is common sense. The unavoidable implication is that less intelligent people get hurt more often.

There are two major issues that get overlooked in the conversation about common sense. The first is that common sense means different things to different people. One person’s life experience might lead them to think that it’s common sense to take a slowand- steady approach at work, whereas another might believe it makes sense to work as fast as humanly possible to show how eager and ambitious they are. In this case it’s up to the safety professionals to help everyone incorporate a safe approach in their common sense.

The second issue is that there’s little correlation between individual intelligence and the ability to maintain a high level of awareness over a long period of time. The former is about natural ability and the latter is about stamina, skills and training to improve endurance. If you want someone to pay attention throughout their shift, you can slowly build up their fortitude (think of it like a runner training their body to cover more distance every week), and you can provide motivation that will help them stay focused when their attention starts to flag. And most importantly, you can give them the skills to fight off the biggest causes of distraction, especially human factors like rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency.

These four roadblocks are a significant threat to any new safety initiative. To successfully manage any change, start viewing regulatory compliance as one tool among many rather than the only answer. Then add a few more tools, from resisting the status quo bias to adjusting the perception of risk and, finally, to recognizing that safety shouldn’t rely upon common sense. By using the five essential components of organizational change as a roadmap to navigate these roadblocks, you’ll drastically improve the likelihood of safety success.

Gary is an expert in safety management systems and organizational change, he is a two-time past president of the Hawkeye Chapter of the ASSP and past Regional Safety Professional of the Year. In 2010, Gary was awarded the Distinguished Service to Safety Award, the top individual safety award from the NSC.

Safety Culture and Organizational Change

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Improving Safety Culture in the Workplace (Step-By-Step Guide)

Workplace safety is more than box-checking and the occasional safety signs. If you want to build a safer environment for your employees, improving safety culture in the workplace is the place to start. According to research, at least.

A study by OSHA revealed that employers who implemented a strong safety and health management system noted a “transformed workplace culture” . Besides, they experienced “higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction” .

Another study published by the Journal of Safety Research showed that a safety culture intervention (creating more and better safety-related interactions) improved performance:

“Results at follow-up indicated a marked improvement in HSO performance, interaction patterns concerning safety, safety culture indicators, and a changed trend in injury rates. These improvements are interpreted as cultural change because an organizational double-loop learning process leading to modification of the basic assumptions could be identified.”

What is safety culture really? 

Engaging your employees in safety is about encouraging them to take personal responsibility for one another’s safety. It’s not an easy process, but it’s well worth the effort.

When safety is a top priority, employees on all levels share the company’s safety values. Everyone on your team perceives workplace safety as part of their job responsibilities.

The trick here is that it’s easy for your safety culture to turn sour. If you’ll allow us to paraphrase, the road to strong safety culture is paved with good intentions… 

So, what does a negative safety culture look like? Here are a few examples along with ways to prevent bad safety culture habits.

So, how do you develop consistent safe work practices at your company?

It usually boils down to creating a safety culture improvement plan. This helps you encourage your workers to be more proactive about preventative procedures. And it helps you implement the appropriate safety measures across the board. Safety becomes a standard procedure, rather than an afterthought.

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How to implement a sustainable safety culture

So, now you know a bit more about the characteristics of positive and negative safety cultures. In this section, we will outline how you can build a sustainable safety culture in your workplace.

The key elements of strong safety culture were outlined in the 1999 IOM report To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System . Here they are: 

  • The actions at management level, and the policies that they implement to improve the safety of their workers.
  • The extent of the participation of workers in safety planning.
  • That workers had ready availability to any necessary protective equipment.
  • The way that group norms influenced the operation of safety practices.
  • The socialization process with which the company inducted new employees.

These are the basics of a successful health and safety workplace culture. All the facets you need to look at. But, your organization is unique, and, so, your safety initiatives must be adapted to it. True culture change requires a flexible, considerate approach. 

8 steps to build your safety culture

With this in mind, here are the steps to build a positive safety culture:

  • Create accountability and well-defined responsibilities for your team
  • Outline policies, goals and plans for the future . This ensures the continued growth and success of your safety culture.  
  • Assess your workplace’s current attitude towards health and safety. Pinpoint any weaker areas and safety issues, and evaluate ways that they can be rectified.
  • Put a strong incident report system in place. At the same time, work towards building your employee’s trust in the system. Workers need to know that their issues will be listened to and dealt with, and their ideas will be heard. They should not fear undue punishment.
  • Keep your team motivated . Praise the successes and strengths of your operations, too.
  • Put a safety council in place. Then, schedule in regular meetings to discuss potential safety improvements.
  • Improve your workforce’s safety knowledge . Anything from daily safety talks to monthly training is a good idea. It will help encourage safe behavior among your employees.
  • Simplify your current incident management and investigation process.

Culture of safety examples

Positive safety culture example.

British Sugar Plc. is a great safety culture case study . 

The company had a strong safety record. But, in the space of just one year, it experienced three deaths of its workers. It was evident that they needed a behavioral change. 

The safety leadership team started a wave of culture change from the top. First, they assigned health and safety responsibilities to all directors. Then, managers were asked to report monthly to the company board. Annual health and safety-related targets were set and tracked. Finally, working partnerships with employees and trade unions were strengthened.

The company worked hard to improve their workplace safety culture. And the results followed soon:

  • A 43% reduction in injury-related time lost, over a two-year period
  • A 63% decline in major issues over one year
  • A significantly increased understanding of the directors regarding key health and safety risks

Negative safety culture example

A negative safety culture example can be found in the report by the IOM that we mentioned earlier.

At the time of the research, as many as 98,000 people in the US died in hospitals every year, due to preventable medical errors. One of the report’s main conclusions was that “the majority of medical errors do not result from individual recklessness or the actions of a particular group… more commonly, errors are caused by faulty systems, processes, and conditions that lead people to make mistakes or fail to prevent them.” 

For example, patient-care units in hospitals were stocked with full-strength drugs. Unless diluted, these drugs were toxic, which led to numerous deaths due to human error. Deaths that could be prevented.

Measuring your safety performance 

Measuring and monitoring the impact that your safety culture improvement plan is vital. This ensures that your health and safety standards continue to thrive and your workers remain happy and healthy at work. And it’s also the way to achieve continuous safety improvement in the future.

First, be sure to set clear, definitive safety targets for you all to strive towards. This is a key way to help everyone feel involved and share in the success. Then, you can move to the question at hand: 

How do you measure your safety performance?

You can measure your safety performance by making health and safety feedback a habit. Useful feedback can be obtained in a variety of ways:

  • Undertake a routine daily analysis of your safety performance .
  • Study employee satisfaction . You can find a great survey template from HSE here . This will help you gain a more nuanced understanding of the employees’ feelings about your current workplace safety. And this will make it easier to decide what changes or improvements to focus on.
  • Do follow-up surveys . This is a useful tool to gauge the success of your improvement efforts.
  • Organize weekly progress updates . You can brief your team about the progress towards meeting your safety culture goals. This helps you all stay on track.

Creating a safe place to work is the first step. It’s the least that you can do for your employees. And, with strong safety culture in place, you can become more proactive about health and safety. You can move beyond lagging indicators such as DART and TRIR.

So, if you and your management team are looking to commit to improving safety culture in the workplace, there’s no time like the present. So, go for it!

Further Reading

If you are wanting to learn a bit more about improving your employees’ safety mindset in the workplace, we’ve provided a few links to some useful further reading to help you gain a better understanding of any specific areas, or answer any queries that you may have.

  • Safety topics free download: Safety Awakenings
  • Engaging with Safety Culture; A review of current thinking and practice
  • Health and safety week ideas : MEM – Safety week starter kit
  • Health and safety champion role : LMP – How-To Guide: Health and Safety Champions
  • Health and safety goals : Tilsatec – Setting Safety Goals for 2020
  • Management commitment to safety statement : OSHA – Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
  • Safety Meeting Ideas : 100+ Short Workplace Safety Topics from [A-Z] – Free Download
  • Safety games : Top 15 Workplace Safety Games Ideas For Adults + Download Links

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11 actionable ideas to improve safety culture in the workplace

According to the National Safety Council , workplace injuries cost employers an estimated $167 billion in 2021 alone. And this figure doesn’t even include the millions of days of productivity lost due to injured employees being unable to come to work.

If you want to reduce these costs, you first need to improve safety culture in the workplace. This means implementing an active strategy for preventing injuries/accidents and getting the buy-in of workers at all levels of your business.

What is safety culture?

An organization’s safety culture exists when employees at all levels share the goal to protect everyone from safety and health hazards. In other words, it is the business’ approach to safety in the workplace.

This set of shared standards and practices comes from the top down. To have a thriving, safe work environment, frontline workers must feel as strongly about staying safe as leaders do about keeping them safe.

While each organization has a different approach to safety, not all approaches are necessarily good. Leaders who consistently reward productivity, for example, can unintentionally send the message that being fast is better than staying safe. Creating a great safety culture depends on small actions and communications that ultimately shape the beliefs and habits that your employees adopt.

Why is safety culture important?

Your organization’s safety culture is important because it impacts the probability of accidents, injuries, and deaths from happening. A 2009 research study from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that:

“Employees’ perceptions of and attitudes towards safety [are] independently associated with individual safety performance and wellbeing.”

One of the most notable qualities of a poor safety culture is a disconnect between how different stakeholders in the company approach safety. If only leadership or only frontline employees practice safe habits in the workplace, this means that not everyone is on the same page. And the result of this disconnect is inconsistent safety practices which lead to accidents.

Here are some of the other tell-tale signs of a poor safety culture:

  • Widespread safety rule noncompliance
  • Frequent OSHA citations
  • An experience modification rate (EMR) that is greater than 1.0 (meaning that you have elevated workers’ compensation insurance costs)
  • Inability to obtain contracts due to safety programs and company loss experience
  • Failure to comply with the company’s safety procedures
  • Leadership emphasis on production or cost before safety

To create a strong safety culture, you need to align the values of people at all levels within your organization. This comes down to how both leaders and employees approach safety every day.

Leaders improving the culture

Senior management should be actively involved with employee health and safety. Leaders must commit to creating safe work environments that are free from recognizable hazards. They do this by establishing goals, monitoring safety performance, and holding workers accountable to company standards.

Managers and supervisors implement accident and incident prevention measures which ensure employee compliance with safety rules, programs, and procedures.

Employees contributing to the culture

Employee participation in safety initiatives and routines is critical for overall success. Widespread participation in a safety program can help identify hazards and lead to solutions that ensure safety in the workplace.

Each person is responsible to ensure they comply with safety rules, programs, and procedures. Getting your workers to commit to these initiatives is the only way that you can reduce all of the costs associated with injuries and accidents.

Free template!

Use this safety culture survey template to ask your employees about the EHS initiatives around your facility.

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Tips to improve safety culture

Regardless of your approach to safety, communication is key. But talking about safety isn’t enough on its own. Your actions ultimately determine how others will approach safety. Cutting corners, neglecting maintenance, and praising productivity are just some ways that leaders may unintentionally promote a poor safety culture.

Below are elevent tips to help you improve the safety culture within your company. Implement as many as you can for the best outcome.

TIP #1: Ask the right questions.

Employees are key to obtaining useful information about success and adherence to  safety programs . They are excellent resources for learning more about the company’s current safety culture and areas of improvement.

Whether through weekly GEMBA walks, one-on-one interactions, or group brainstorms, make sure you get your employees’ input on how to improve. Companies with the best safety performance value and implement the input of their frontline workers.

TIP #2: Look for employee leaders within your organization.

Informal leaders have the respect of their fellow employees. Find people who have influence over their peers within the workplace. Ask these leaders to join a  safety committee  and take part in safety initiatives like hazard assessments and 5S audits.

TIP #3: Perform a risk/hazard assessment.

A hazard assessment is an evaluation of a workplace that focuses on finding safety hazards. Per OSHA recommendations , “an effective program systematically identifies, evaluates, and prevents or controls general workplace hazards, specific job hazards, and those potential hazards which may arise from foreseeable conditions.”

TIP #4: Perform a gap analysis.

Check OSHA’s requirements for safety programs and required training. Your hazard assessment and the resources on OSHA’s website will help you find deficiencies in your overall safety program. Download the  Existing Standards Crosswalk  to discover the standards your business is subject to.

TIP #5: Analyze accident history.

Look up  the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual injury reports for injury expenses and lost time data for your industry for the previous five years. Compare your annual 300A reports to the BLS data. Utilize your workers’ compensation provider to analyze accident data looking for trends. Ask your provider to supply your annual Experience Modification Rate (EMR) for the last five years. Is the EMR going up or down? Your goal should be an EMR less than 1.0.

TIP #6: Analyze past OSHA and regulatory citations.

Find if any OSHA citations have been permanently addressed. If not, fix the equipment or reimplement the relevant safety program. Inspection and citation data can be found here .

TIP #7: Form a working safety committee.

Your committee should consist of managers, supervisors, and hourly employees. Give the committee time and money to address identified safety deficiencies. And make sure the committee meets consistently. Consider making these fun safety meetings by doing icebreakers and other team-building exercises.

Frontline employees will be excited to share their insights and suggestions. If you regularly cancel the safety committee meetings, you will send a message that you don’t care about protecting workers. To improve the safety culture, you have to talk about safety on a regular basis–not just every once in a while.

TIP #8: Implement a safety incident reporting system.

The system should include incidents like near misses, injuries, and property damage. For each incident, you should include action items to prevent the incident from happening again. If you don’t track these action items, however, your system will not be effective. Make sure you track your actions and ensure that they are implemented as soon as possible.

TIP #9: Implement a stop work procedure.

Empower employees to stop work if they or their coworkers are in danger of being injured. That way, they won’t be afraid to speak up when they see a hazard. When this happens, make sure you listen attentively and match your employee’s concern for fixing the issue right away.

TIP #10: Implement continuous improvement.

Making ongoing improvements in performance, commitment, strategy, and process all help build up the company’s bottom line and drive down near misses, property damage, and employee injuries. Consider following a PDCA (Plan Do Check Adjust) process for your improvements.

TIP #11: Recognize and celebrate safety achievements.

Recognize group or individual safety achievements regularly. This is one of the easiest ways to develop a strong safety culture in a warehouse, factory, etc. Remember, whatever you consistently talk about and focus on will set the tone for your workplace priorities. If employees hear you recognize and reward a safety mindset, they will begin to be more aware and proactive during the day. Instead of focusing on employee injuries, which are  lagging indicators , celebrate safety accomplishments instead.

Stay up-to-date on safety best practices

Every year, safety accidents cost companies billions of dollars in lost productivity, injury expenses, operational repairs, and more. The best strategy to deal with these costs is to develop a strong safety culture from the top to the bottom of your organization.

Improve the safety culture at your site by staying up-to-date on best practices within your industry. Follow the Frontline blog to stay informed on everything you need to know about making your safety processes more effective and successful.

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How to build a culture of cybersecurity

Beth Stackpole

Mar 15, 2022

At a large bank, the CEO kicks off every all-staff meeting with a cybersecurity story, whether recounting a personal experience or discussing relevant, newsworthy incidents.

At another company, a former marketing manager parlays her messaging skills into creating campaigns that inform and engage employees on cybersecurity readiness and responsibility. Elsewhere, companies underscore the importance of cybersecurity by formally evaluating employees and doling out rewards or consequences based on their actions.

These initiatives are all aimed at the same goal: nurturing a culture of cybersecurity that tasks every member of an organization with embracing attitudes and beliefs that drive secure behaviors.

Investment in cybersecurity technologies and training and awareness programs has soared the last few years as the threat landscape grows. Yet those efforts don’t go far enough in fully mitigating cybersecurity risks, according to Keri Pearlson , executive director of Cybersecurity at MIT Sloan , or CAMS.  This is because the weak link is typically people and behavior — a problem that is only resolved through a combination of technology investment and culture change.

At the EmTech CyberSecure conference hosted by MIT Technology Review, Pearlson explained how and why companies should implement managerial mechanisms that change people’s values, attitudes, and beliefs about cybersecurity at every organizational level.

“We put so many resources into ’locking up’ using technology that we forget about the back doors in the organization, and that’s usually people,” said Pearlson, who has a doctorate in business administration with a focus on management information systems. “We need a culture of cybersecurity because you can’t tell everyone everything they need to do. You need them to understand that organizational safety is part of what they need to do in today’s world.”

Make cybersecurity part of the organization’s fabric

Companies are under pressure to step up cybersecurity given the scope and scale of what’s at stake. Cybersecurity Ventures projects global cybercrime costs to grow by 15% per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

The human factor was involved in more than 85% of data breaches, according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

In 2021, the average data breach cost soared to $4.24 million, the highest in the 17-year history of IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report . The common theme in these and other cybersecurity reports is that the human element is by far the largest risk. In fact, the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found the human factor was involved in over 85% of breaches, whether that entailed falling for a phishing attack, making bad decisions that lead to malware infections, or using easily decipherable passwords.

That’s where a cybersecurity culture comes into play, Pearlson said. It’s not just about giving people a playbook on how to avoid phishing emails or providing password management training. Rather, it’s infusing safety into the organizational fabric so every employee is constantly reminded of their role and responsibility to keep the organization safe.

Companies with the least mature cybersecurity culture offload the work and responsibility to the technology department, generally under the auspices of the chief information officer or chief information security officer, Pearlson said.

More mature organizations reinforce cybersecurity culture at three levels:

Leadership level: Like the CEO who talks about security in all-company meetings, leaders prioritize cybersecurity, making it clear to everyone in the organization that it’s an intrinsic part of corporate values. While the CIO or CISO is at the helm of cybersecurity strategy and initiatives, non-cyber executives, including the board of directors, are visibly aligned with the mission and put the proper behaviors on display.

Group level: Cybersecurity issues begin to permeate discussions among employees and seep into how teams work together. Watercooler conversations or Slack and Zoom meetings include cybersecurity-related topics, and non-technical business groups begin to seek out guidance on how they can be more secure. The group-level activities show that cybersecurity is important to the team and that in turn drives more secure behaviors, Pearlson said.

Individual level: Employees gain a general awareness of the kinds of threats possible and feel empowered to take action if they encounter something suspicious. Moreover, they know exactly what to do in the event of an incident — for example, how and where to report a phishing email incident or flag a suspicious person walking out the door with a laptop.

Executive education: Cybersecurity Leadership for Non-Technical Executives

Drive culture change with these four steps

So what can be done to drive organizational change and foster a cybersecurity culture that engages across all levels? Pearlson made the following recommendations, based on CAMS research:

Make it someone’s job to be the ' culture owner.'  This isn’t necessarily the CIO or CISO, but a non-technical executive who specifically owns the actions necessary to change behavior and drive values, attitudes, and beliefs. One culture owner created campaigns that resonated with employees, including using famous movie titles to reflect important cybersecurity messages. Other training programs incorporated fun icons and famous memes to drive engagement and encourage discussion among employees.

Related Articles

Use language that resonates. If you want to foster change, it’s important to communicate in terms workers understand. One culture owner at a major insurance company determined that the term cybersecurity wasn’t connecting with employees. The messaging was changed to “protect our data and systems,” an objective team members clearly understood. “In their world, data was king, so everyone in the organization understood the need to protect data,” Pearlson said. “That one small change in terms made a huge difference in what people had to do and in building a culture of cybersecurity.”

Messaging is also critical to building engagement. An insurance provider CAMS studied built a multi-channel communications campaign to disseminate cybersecurity information, including videos, digital displays, blogs, alerts, emails, postcards, events, and training to connect with employees on multiple fronts.

Make cybersecurity part of formal employee evaluation. With formal evaluation of cybersecure behaviors, employees know what is expected of them. When coupled with rewards and consequences, this gives organizations the best chance of driving behavior and culture change. At one insurance provider, if an employee failed a phishing exercise too often, it was reflected in their performance review. It was also noted if an employee went above and beyond their position to help colleagues better understand why it was important to create a stronger culture of cybersecurity and data protection.

There should also be consequences for undesired behavior. In one company CAMS studied, those that failed phishing exercises once got referred to refresher training, while a second infraction meant a meeting with a direct manager. The third failure led to a referral to HR, and the fourth time, internet privileges were lost. Any additional incidents resulted in termination.

Conduct tabletop exercises and fire drills. Pearlson encouraged organizations to simulate, either through scenario planning or tabletop exercises, what should happen in the event of a real breach. “You don’t want the first time you’ve thought about a cyberattack to be in the middle of a cyberattack,” she said. “You want to be prepared.”

Read next: How to respond to a ransomware attack

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7 Strategies to Get Your Employees On Board with GenAI

  • Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

safe change culture

A culture that accepts this new technology can also learn how to innovate with it.

As with any aspect of digital transformation, the effective deployment of generative AI will depend less on technological capability than on human adaptability. Indeed, the human factor — people and culture — will drive the adoption of AI, or lack thereof. Looking at scientific research and real-world case studies, there are seven generalizable lessons for improving your ability to adopt GenAI, and any novel technology, at an organizational level: innovation boosts your organization’s immunity, focus on the problem, less is more, intuition is the common enemy, everyone loves change until they have to do it, process eats culture for lunch, and be proactive about ethical concerns.

Despite record rapid adoption and persistent media hype — ranging from dystopian to utopian coverage — generative AI is more of an area of intellectual promise or concern for businesses than an operational reality. Amidst estimates of an AI market that could reach almost $670 billion by 2030, adding up to $4.4 trillion in productivity, business leaders are still wondering what exactly to do with AI, how to leverage it, and how exactly it will deliver the advertised economic benefits. And there is no shortage of hope or belief in AI’s potential, especially during turbulent economic times.

safe change culture

  • Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup, a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, co-founder of  deepersignals.com , and an associate at Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab. He is the author of  Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How to Fix It ) , upon which his  TEDx talk  was based. His latest book is I, Human: AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique.   Find him at  www.drtomas.com . drtcp

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Topic: Culture Transformation

Astrazeneca – using safe for agile adoption.

safe change culture

“We’re delivering faster with greater quality and less manpower—resulting in substantial financial benefits from the teams that have adopted Agile to date. We expect to double our adoption of Agile this year.”

— Patty Sheehan , AZ Agile Cultural Change Lead and Coach

Scale Agile practices across a large global change portfolio


  • Substantial financial benefits delivered in the first year
  • Significantly faster time-to-value delivery
  • Reduced team sizes
  • Improved quality of outputs over previous solutions

Best Practices:

  • Address culture change  – AZ focused on the culture shift required to support Agile by creating Culture Leaders.
  • Align governance and procurement  – AZ aligned funding and governance approval with Agile ways of working, enabling teams to make progress quickly and benefit from Agile delivery.
  • Consider face-to-face ARTs  – AZ required face-to-face planning at the launch of a new Agile Release Train (ART).
  • Stay organized  – AZ used task tracking and collaboration tools extensively.


AstraZeneca (AZ) is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business employing 61,500 employees worldwide. Millions of patients around the globe use its innovative medicines. AZ activities span the entire life cycle of a medicine, from research and development to manufacturing and supply to the global sales and marketing of primary care and speciality care medicines that transform lives.

SAFe for Agile Adoption

AZ teams are pushing the boundaries of science to make a difference through medicine for patients, their families, our stakeholders, and society in general. AZ believes that scientific research and applying leading technology are key to achieving cutting-edge innovation and at the heart of what we do.

In AZ, IT is helping to push the boundaries of science to deliver life-changing medicines by continuously improving the IT environment and working with business teams to innovate for competitive advantage.

Enterprise-wide Alignment with Agile

AZ has made use of Agile practices for a number of years at a small scale, but up to 2014 had continued to deliver the majority of its programs using traditional SAFe approaches. A decision was taken to adopt Agile methods more broadly across its IT change portfolio in order to bring about a step change in delivery performance. PA Consulting was selected by AZ to support this agile transformation effort, providing organizational change management expertise, Agile transformation strategy, training and coaching. AstraZeneca and PA Consulting selected the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) in late 2014 as the framework to be applied to support the adoption of Agile .

“We needed the ability to scale Agile quickly because we run large, complex programs at AstraZeneca,” says Patty Sheehan, AZ Agile Cultural Change Lead and Coach. “SAFe is a flexible yet robust framework that has already been proven successful. It has been the right fit for us.”

The SAFe Agile adoption approach focused on organization and culture change, supporting Agile teams directly and ensuring that processes such as procurement and regulatory approval were aligned with Agile. The Agile adoption has so far been extremely successful with teams reporting significantly faster time to value delivery (40-60%), reduced team sizes (cost reduction of 25-40%) and improved quality. Financially, we rigorously monetized a large proportion of benefits from just a small subset of teams.

The AZ team, supported by PA Consulting, rolled out SAFe in the first year to tackle the larger scale programs in its portfolio, focusing on three key areas:

  • Organization and culture change: The transition to Agile ways of working can be a substantial break with traditional corporate culture. AZ defined five key organizational values: customer focus, technical leadership, operational excellence, collaboration and simplicity. By becoming Agile, AZ people would not only know these values but practice them in a methodical way.AZ tied this message into an Agile vision statement and marketing, making the change feel more personal and organic. The culture change approach included creating an extensive network of Agile Culture Leaders across the organization, focused on executive-level buy-in. The company also dedicated additional time at the end of each SAFe training course to the discussion and diagnosis of immediate actions to change culture.

SAFe for Agile Adoption

  • Alignment of governance, procurement and regulatory processes with SAFe: AZ replaced its traditional project governance framework with a new Adaptive Delivery Framework that was easy to use, lightweight, and crucially, supported both Scrum and Scaled Agile approaches out of the box. With this change, funding and governance approval were aligned with Agile ways of working, enabling teams to make progress quickly and benefit from Agile delivery. As a regulated pharmaceutical organization, AZ also has many regulatory obligations on its systems and processes. Defining an approach with the internal Quality Management group was a key success criteria, allowing the AZ Agile teams to deliver validated software solutions that supported regulatory requirements.

SAFe for Agile Adoption

  • Outsourced and offshore teams: AZ teams are typically made up of a number of different third-party suppliers working in collaboration with AZ from a variety of sites around the world. We overcame the challenges inherent in this arrangement, building on key elements of SAFe to support this way of working. The PI Planning event was crucial to the alignment and co-ordination of large, off-shore teams. These events were carried out using a mixture of on-site and video conferencing facilities, with a requirement for face-to-face planning at the launch of a new ART. Similarly, iteration alignment and system demos helped the teams to maintain visible synchronization throughout increments. The Legal and Procurement teams at AZ are revising the contractual arrangements and procurement processes to align with SAFe . Task tracking and collaboration tools were used extensively. Following the success of the Agile adoption in the first year, AstraZeneca is now creating a number of internal ARTs to deliver change, again utilizing a multi-site model.

Value Delivered in Year One

AstraZeneca is 18 months into a multi-year transition to Agile ways of working, but with the adoption of the Scaled Agile Framework and the support of PA Consulting, a substantial transformation has already occurred. Twenty large teams have adopted Agile, and over 1000 staff have been trained and supported through a robust coaching regime. More importantly, Agile maturity has increased rapidly over the year with strong adoption in each area of the business. The teams adopting SAFe have observed significantly increased time to value delivery with improved quality of the outputs over previous solutions. This has been achieved more efficiently with reduced team sizes

“We’re delivering faster with greater quality and less manpower—resulting in substantial financial benefits from the teams that have adopted Agile to date,” Sheehan says. “We expect to double our adoption of Agile this year.”

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Suggested case study: royal philips, telstra – adopting safe as a recipe for success.

safe change culture


Telstra is Australia’s leading provider of mobile phones, mobile devices, home phones and broadband internet. When Telstra’s Enterprise Data Warehouse delivery team began their SAFe Agile journey , they scaled from 1 to 5 teams in a matter of months and found themselves struggling to make the leap from agile projects to an Agile program. “After reading Dean Leffingwell’s Scaling Software Agility and Agile Software Requirements,” notes Mark Richards (Agile Coach) and Em Campbell-Pretty (General Manager, EDW Delivery), “we were inspired to establish Telstra’s first Agile Release Train.” Later, they both followed up with SPC certification to further enhance their knowledge and skills.

Telstra - SAFe Telcom

This presentation, from Agile Australia 2013 in June, covers how SAFe provided a recipe for success, reflecting on how Telstra translated Program-level SAFe theory into practice, transforming not only the delivery capability of the EDW team, but also the culture. Adopting Leffingwell’s Scaled Agile Framework, the Theory and the Practice.

Most importantly, they are getting great business results, including:

  • Average delivery cycle time down from 12 month to 3 months
  • 6X increased in delivery frequency
  • 50% cost to deliver reduction
  • 95% decrease in product defects
  • 100% projects delivered on time and on budget
  • Happy project sponsors
  • Happy teams

As we noted, Em and Mark placed an early emphasis on rapidly evolving the culture that supports Lean-Agile development, and they had some fun with it too, as you can see if you check out the  The Power of Haka!  on Em’s PrettyAgile blog .

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How China Broke One Man’s Dreams

Gao zhibin is among the thousands of migrants disillusioned with their home country who have risked the perilous crossing into the united states..

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A crisis of confidence is brewing inside China, where the government is turning believers in the Chinese dream into skeptics willing to flee the country.

Li Yuan, who writes about technology, business and politics across Asia for The Times, explains why that crisis is now showing up at the United States’ southern border.

On today’s episode

safe change culture

Li Yuan , who writes the New New World column for The New York Times.

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Why more Chinese are risking danger in southern border crossings to the United States.

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Li Yuan writes the New New World column , which focuses on the intersection of technology, business and politics in China and across Asia. More about Li Yuan


safe change culture

It’s not enough that management commit themselves to quality and productivity, they must know what it is they must do. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated. —W. Edwards Deming Paraphrased from Out of the Crisis [1]

Lean-Agile Leadership

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The Lean-Agile Leadership competency describes how Lean-Agile Leaders drive and sustain organizational change and operational excellence by empowering individuals and teams to reach their highest potential. They do this through leading by example, learning and modeling SAFe’s Lean-Agile mindset, values, principles, and practices, and leading the change to a new way of working.

Lean-Agile Leadership is one of the seven core competencies of Business Agility, each of which is essential to achieving Business Agility. Each core competency is supported by a specific assessment, enabling the enterprise to assess its proficiency. The Measure and Grow article provides these core competency assessments and recommended improvement opportunities.

Why Lean-Agile Leaders?

An organization’s managers, executives, and other leaders are responsible for the adoption, success, and ongoing improvement of Lean-Agile development and the competencies that lead to business agility. Only they have the authority to change and continuously improve the systems that govern how work is performed. Moreover, only these leaders can create an environment that encourages high-performing Agile teams to flourish and produce value. Leaders, therefore, must internalize and model leaner ways of thinking and operating so that team members will learn from their example, coaching, and encouragement.

Achieving agility throughout the enterprise is neither simple nor easy. As described below, business agility requires a new approach to leadership. It starts with leaders exemplifying behaviors that will inspire and motivate the organization to pursue a better way of working. They set the example by coaching, empowering, and engaging individuals and teams to reach their highest potential through Lean and Agile principles and practices.

In short, knowledge alone won’t be enough. Lean-Agile leaders must do more than simply ‘support’ the transformation: they must actively lead the change, participating in and guiding the activities necessary to understand and continuously optimize the flow of value through the enterprise. Lean-Agile leaders:

  • Organize and reorganize around value
  • Identify and reduce long queues and excess Work in Process (WIP)
  • Continually focus on eliminating bottlenecks and delays
  • Eliminate demotivating policies and procedures
  • Inspire and motivate others
  • Create a culture of relentless improvement
  • Provide the space for teams to innovate

By helping leaders develop along three distinct dimensions, as illustrated in Figure 1, organizations can establish Lean-Agile leadership as a core competency:

These dimensions are:

  • Mindset, Values, and Principles  – By embedding the Lean-Agile way of working in their beliefs, decisions, responses, and actions, leaders model the expected norm throughout the organization.
  • Leading by Example  – Leaders gain  earned authority by modeling the desired behaviors for others to follow, inspiring them to incorporate the leader’s example into their development journey.
  • Leading Change  – Leaders  lead (rather than support) the transformation by creating the environment, preparing the people, and providing the necessary resources to realize the desired outcomes.

The following sections explore these dimensions of Lean-Agile leadership in greater detail.

Leading by Example

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means. —Albert Schweitzer, Paraphrased from an interview in United Nations World [2]

Through their words and actions, leaders provide the organization with patterns of expected behaviors. The aggregation of those patterns determines the organization’s culture, whether good or bad. The most important and effective technique for driving the cultural change needed to transform to the new way of working is for leaders to internalize and model the behaviors and mindsets of business agility so that others can learn and grow by their example.

Author Simon Sinek underscores the importance of leading by example in his book Leaders Eat Last [3] with the following:

The leaders of companies set the tone and direction for the people. Hypocrites, liars, and self-interested leaders create cultures filled with hypocrites, liars, and self-interested employees. The leaders of companies who tell the truth, in contrast, will create a culture of people who tell the truth. It is not rocket science. We follow the leader.

By modeling the right behaviors, leaders can transform organizational cultures from the pathological (negative, power-oriented) and bureaucratic (negative, rule-oriented) patterns of the past to the generative (positive, performance-oriented) culture that is required for the Lean-Agile mindset to flourish. Figure 2 provides a comparison of the attributes of Westrum’s organizational culture model [4]. These same behaviors also build earned authority —power gained through trust, respect, expertise, or action—which engenders greater engagement and commitment to organizational aims than positional authority. Such leaders inspire others to follow their direction and to incorporate the leader’s example into their personal development journey.

As we learn more about the challenges of the digital age and the critical competencies leaders need to guide the organization to greater business agility, it’s essential to understand that the best outcomes are achieved when leaders model behaviors that foster a generative  culture.

What, then, are the behaviors that leaders should embrace to set the right example and build a generative culture? While the potential list of attributes could be long, the leader behaviors below form a solid foundation for this dimension of leadership.

Insatiable learning depicts how leaders engage in the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge and growth and encourage and support the same in others.

Authenticity requires leaders to model desired professional and ethical behaviors. Acting with honesty, integrity, and transparency, they are true to themselves and their beliefs.

Emotional competence describes how leaders identify and manage their emotions and those of others through self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Courage is essential for leaders to guide their organizations through the rapidly changing dynamics of the digital age. It requires leaders to embrace vulnerability, take appropriate risks, and engage in difficult but necessary conversations to challenge the status quo.

Growing others encourages leaders to provide each employee’s personal, professional, and technical guidance and resources to assume increasing levels of responsibility and decision-making.

Decentralized decision-making moves the authority for decisions to where the information is; it prepares teams to make decentralized decisions by investing in their technical competence and providing organizational clarity with decision guardrails [5].

These behaviors are critical to leading in the digital age, where business growth is fueled by an increased shift to instant access to information, entertainment, social and business connections, products, and services, predominantly via mobile and smart devices. This modern context requires mindsets and skills that can be significantly different from the past patterns of working and leading that were successful. If leaders fail to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of a digital economy, their organizations will be significantly disadvantaged.

Mindset and Principles

The basic tenets of Lean challenge many of the aspects of traditional management theory and calls for a mindset that is foreign to most executives . —Jacob Stoller, The Lean CEO [6]

Stoller’s quote is a reminder that traditional management practices are insufficient for the changes needed to achieve business agility. Instead, the Lean enterprise depends on what Toyota calls Lean-thinking manager-teachers. These leaders understand Lean thinking and principles and teach them to others in their everyday work activities. This is integral to who they are and what they do. It informs every aspect of their approach to helping teams throughout the organization work in a Lean and Agile manner as the expected norm.

But what if leaders don’t have that mindset yet? What is a ‘mindset’, and how can a mindset be changed?

Mindset Awareness and Openness to Change

A mindset is simply the mental lens through which we view the world around us. It is how the human brain simplifies, categorizes, and interprets the vast amounts of information it receives daily. We form our mindsets through a lifetime of structured learning (classes, reading) and unstructured lessons (life events, work experience). They reside in the subconscious mind and manifest themselves as deeply held beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and influences. Consequently, individuals are often unaware of how their mindsets influence how they carry out their responsibilities and interact with others. For example, many leaders develop beliefs through business school training and on-the-job experience grounded in legacy waterfall, stage-gate, and siloed ways of working.

So how can mindsets be changed? It begins with the awareness of how one’s current mindset was formed. It’s also vital to cultivate the belief that mindsets can be developed and improved (a ‘growth’ mindset, as illustrated in Figure 3). Leaders must remain open to the possibility that existing mindsets based on traditional management practices must evolve to guide the organizational change required to become a Lean enterprise [7].

Developing a New Mindset

With an increased awareness of current mindsets and an openness to doing the work required to change them, the question becomes, “Change them to what?” Leading the organization through the transformation needed to achieve business agility requires a mindset that reflects the core values and principles of Lean, Agile, and SAFe. This is developed by gaining intimate knowledge and applying these values and principles. It is reflected in how leaders routinely reference Lean-Agile principles and practices as part of carrying out their responsibilities, how they coach and mentor these behaviors in others, and how they promote Lean-Agile practices as the default way of working throughout the organization.

Let’s take a closer look at the three key elements that form the foundation of this new mindset: SAFe Core Values, the Lean-Agile Mindset, and SAFe Principles.

SAFe Core Values

SAFe’s essential ideals and beliefs are defined by alignment, transparency, respect for people, and relentless improvement. Leader behaviors play a critical role in communicating, exhibiting, and emphasizing these values and how they guide the organization’s journey to embracing agility.

Here are some suggestions for how leaders reinforce these values:

Alignment – Communicate the vision, mission, and strategy, and connect them to the portfolio work through well-formed strategic themes. Help organize the value stream and connect strategy to execution through the portfolio vision, lean budgets, and epics. Provide relevant briefings and participate in PI Planning . Help with backlog visibility, review, and preparation; regularly check for understanding.

Transparency – Visualize all relevant work. Take ownership and responsibility for errors and mistakes, using them as learning moments. Admit missteps while supporting others who acknowledge and learn from theirs. Never punish the messenger. Instead, celebrate learning. Create an environment where the facts are always friendly and transparent. Ensure everyone throughout the organization has ready access to needed information.

Respect for people – Treat people with authentic trust and respect. Value diverse opinions and viewpoints. Have genuine care and concern for the growth and development of others by providing coaching, mentoring, training, and enriching experiences. Extend respect to internal and external customers as well as partners and suppliers.

Relentless improvement – Provide priority, visibility, and resources to improvement efforts. Promote a problem-solving culture of ‘everyone improving all the time.’ Encourage consistency in conducting retrospectives and following through with improvements identified as part of the Problem-Solving Workshop during Inspect & Adapt (I&A). Protect time and space for innovation, especially during the Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration.

Lean-Agile Mindset

The genesis of SAFe was to develop guidance for enterprises on how to apply the principles and practices of Lean and Agile in the world’s largest organizations. A Lean-Agile Mindset requires leaders to learn, embrace, and model both Lean and Agile in their behaviors and support adoption by the enterprise. Figure 4 illustrates the key concepts of each discipline.

Lean Thinking – Lean is a set of principles and practices for efficient manufacturing and operations that grew out of the Toyota Production System developed in post-WWII Japan. It focuses on problem-solving and continuous improvement to increase quality and eliminate waste. Adapted to product development by Leffingwell [8], Poppendieck [9], and others, the principles of Lean Thinking illustrate the goal of delivering value by precisely specifying value by product , identifying the Value Stream for each product , making value flow without interruptions, letting the customer pull value from the producer , and pursuing perfection . Leaders create the environment for Lean Thinking by internalizing these principles and exemplifying them in their words, actions, and decision-making process.

Agile – Agile was born from a collaboration of 17 thought leaders in software development who met in 2001 to seek alternatives to the documentation-driven, heavyweight software development processes that were common at the time. It includes four values (shown in Figure 4) and twelve principles as reflected in the Agile Manifesto. Agile is known for delivering iterative and incremental value in the form of working software by promoting face-to-face interaction frequently between developers, customers, and cross-functional, self-organizing teams. Agile has since been adapted and embraced in many non-software development contexts.

The Lean-Agile Mindset article describes how Lean and Agile are at the heart of SAFe and are supported by many articles in the Framework that explain how to implement Lean-Agile practices at scale. Many great courses, books, websites, and videos form a rich set of resources that Lean-Agile leaders should explore to deepen their understanding.

SAFe Principles

SAFe is based on ten immutable, underlying principles. These tenets and economic concepts inspire and inform the roles and practices of SAFe, influencing leader behaviors and decision-making.

The principles are:

Figure 5. The SAFe Lean-Agile Principles

Each is necessary to experience the personal, business, and economic benefits of applying SAFe. Moreover, these principles work together as a system; each informs the others, and the whole is far greater than their sum individually. Lean-Agile leaders embrace these principles and routinely demonstrate and apply them to carry out their organizational responsibilities. Review the SAFe Principles articles for a more in-depth discussion of each principle.

Leading Change

Being a Lean-Agile leader provides the thought processes and practical tools needed to guide the enterprise to achieve business agility. The benefits of delivering value in the shortest sustainable lead time, creating flow, and producing customer delight—all with happy, engaged employees—are clear. It’s also clear that the new way of working for many organizations represents a quantum shift in culture and practice from the traditional paradigms of the past. In other words, the transformation required to adopt SAFe inevitably leads to significant organizational change.

Here again, the role of the Lean-Agile leader is critical. Successful organizational change requires leaders who will lead the transformation (rather than simply ‘support’ it) by creating the environment, preparing the people, and providing the necessary resources to realize desired outcomes. Research shows clear correlations between the leader behaviors described in the “Leading by Example” section of this article and the success of organizational change driven by Agile and DevOps initiatives. Other researchers found that these leader behaviors influence employees’ commitment to supporting the change more than simply following a prescriptive change model [10, 11].

Lean-Agile leaders drive the change process by developing and applying the following skills and techniques:

Change vision occurs when leaders effectively communicate why change is needed and do so in ways that inspire, motivate, and engage people to buy into the change with a sense of urgency.

A powerful coalition for change is formed when a ‘volunteer army’ of individuals from multiple levels, across silos, and with diverse perspectives are empowered to contribute to and help overcome barriers to implementing the change.

Change leadership is the ability to positively influence and motivate others to engage in organizational change through the leader’s personal advocacy and drive. It includes producing and celebrating short-term wins, reinforcing the change until the desired outcomes are achieved, and anchoring the change in the organization as the ‘new normal.’

Psychological safety occurs when leaders create an environment for risk-taking that supports change without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career.

Training the new way of working ensures that everyone is trained in the values, principles, and practices of Lean and Agile, including a commitment by leaders to their training so they can lead by example.

Sound organizational change management (OCM) practices are still important and highly recommended in a SAFe transformation. One of the most respected voices in OCM, Dr. John Kotter, in his most recent research, has described the ‘eight accelerators’ for implementing successful change as [12, 13]:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Pull together the guiding team
  • Develop the change vision and strategy
  • Communicate for understanding and buy-in
  • Empower others to act
  • Produce short-term wins
  • Don’t let up
  • Institute change

Dr. Kotter goes further in describing four change leadership principles that can help unlock the full potential of the eight accelerators:

Management + Leadership . To capitalize on windows of opportunity, leadership must be paramount – and not just from one executive. It’s about vision, action, innovation, and celebration, as well as essential managerial processes.

‘Have to’ + ‘Want to’ . Those who feel included in a meaningful opportunity will help create change in addition to their normal responsibilities. Existing team members can provide the energy – if you invite them.

Head + Heart . Most people aren’t inspired by logic alone, but rather by the fundamental desire to contribute to a larger cause. Extraordinary results are possible if you can give greater meaning and purpose to your effort.

Select Few + Diverse Many . More people need to be able to make change happen – not just carry out someone else’s directives. Done right, this uncovers leaders at all levels of an organization, ones you never knew you had.

These values and practices require the active participation of the leaders driving the change. But even this is not enough. Heath and Heath note in their book on change [14] that leaders “ need to script the critical moves ” essential to accomplish the change.

The SAFe Implementation Roadmap

Based on experience and these insights from the field of organizational change management, the SAFe Implementation Roadmap article series guides leaders on this particular journey, as summarized in the Implementation Roadmap article and Figure 6 below.

Figure 6. The SAFe Implementation Roadmap

The SAFe implementation roadmap is described in a series of 12 articles that align with Kotter’s blueprint for change. For example, the sense of urgency is often established in the many conversations that lead to an organization ‘reaching the tipping point’ and deciding to ‘go SAFe.’ The next recommended action is to train a core group of Lean-Agile change agents and leaders who will form the powerful guiding coalition. The pattern continues throughout the roadmap, designed to incorporate successful organizational change lessons into the SAFe transformation model. This roadmap helps leaders’ know the way’ as they drive for successful change. The roadmap also highlights Scaled Agile’s Leading in the Digital Age series designed to better prepare leaders to lead the implementation.

Role of the SAFe Practice Consultants

Even with Lean-Agile leaders and sound organizational change strategies, observations from many SAFe implementations indicate that a significant cadre of change agents and experienced coaches is also needed. While every leader plays a part in producing the change, SAFe Practice Consultants (SPCs) are trained and equipped specially for this task. SPCs’ training, tools, courseware, and intrinsic motivation play a critical role in successfully implementing and sustaining a SAFe transformation.

Implementing SAFe is not just any change; it’s a shift to persistently and relentlessly improving business agility, all based on the fundamentals of Agile and Lean. It requires managers, executives, and other leaders who understand how to lead, sustain, and accelerate the transformation to a new way of working.

Leaders alone have the authority to change and continuously improve the systems that govern how work is performed. Only they can create an environment that encourages high-performing Agile teams to flourish and produce value. Leaders, therefore, must internalize and model leaner ways of thinking and operating so the rest of the organization will learn from their example, coaching, and encouragement.

Effective leadership ultimately provides the foundation for the adoption and success of Lean-Agile as the new way of working, and mastery of the competencies that lead to business agility.

[1] Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis . The MIT Press, 2018.

[2] Schweitzer, Albert. United Nations World . UN World Incorporated, 1952.

[3] Sinek, Simon. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t . Portfolio, 2017.

[4] Westrum, Ron. A topology of organizational cultures. 2004. Quality and Safety in Health Care, 13(Suppl II):ii22–ii27. doi: 10.1136/qshc.2003.009522

[5] Marquet, L. David. Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders. Portfolio, 2013.

[6] Stoller, Jacob. The Lean CEO: Leading the Way to World-Class Excellence . McGraw Hill, 2015.

[7] Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing, 2007.

[8] Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2010.

[9] Poppendieck, Mary, and Tom Poppendieck. Implementing Lean Software Development: Concept to Cash. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2006.

[10] Mayner, Stephen. Transformational Leadership and Organizational Change During Agile and DevOps Initiatives. ProQuest, 2017.

[11] Herold, David M., Donald B. Fedor, Steven Caldwell, and Yi Liu. “The Effects of Transformational and Change Leadership on Employees’ Commitment to Change: A Multi-level Study.” Journal of Applied Psychology , 2008.

[12] Kotter, John P. Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World. Harvard Business Review Press, 2014.

[13] Kotter, John P. Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times. Wiley, 2021.

[14] Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard . Crown Business, 2010.

Last update: 27 May 2023

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One dead, 21 wounded amid shots fired into crowd after Kansas City Chiefs rally: Live updates

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Kansas City Chiefs parade shooting for Wednesday, Feb. 14. For the latest news on shooting, view our live updates file for Thursday, Feb. 15 .

Bullets ripped through crowds of spectators following a Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory parade attended by tens of thousands Wednesday, killing one and injuring at least 21 others in the nation's latest shooting assault at a major sports or concert venue.

Kansas City, Missouri, police confirmed shots were fired west of Union Station at around 2 p.m. local time. Interim Fire Chief Ross Grundyson said at a news conference that 22 people suffered gunshot wounds, including one fatality, eight with immediately life-threatening injuries, seven with life-threatening injuries, and six with minor injuries.

Several people near the parade route were carried away on stretchers.

Lisa Augustine, spokesperson for Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said the hospital was treating 12 patients from the rally, including 11 children, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds.

Police Chief Stacey Graves said three people have been detained, but detectives are investigating whether one person was among a group of bystanders who assisted police and possibly tackled an assailant.

“I’m angry at what happened today. The people who came to this celebration should expect a safe environment,” Graves said at a news conference.

Radio station KKFI said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening that DJ Lisa Lopez-Galvan, host of “Taste of Tejano,” was killed in the shooting.

“This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community,” KKFI said.

Lopez-Galvan, whose DJ name was “Lisa G,” was an extrovert and devoted mother from a prominent Latino family in the area, said Rosa Izurieta and Martha Ramirez, two childhood friends who worked with her at a staffing company. Izurieta said Lopez-Galvan had attended the parade with her husband and her adult son, a die-hard Kansas City sports fan who also was shot.

“She’s the type of person who would jump in front of a bullet for anybody — that would be Lisa,” Izurieta said.

Some of the Chiefs' players spoke at the rally but were not in the line of fire when shots rang out. A team official said players and coaches were not injured and were on buses leaving the area.

More than 800 law enforcement officers were providing security for the parade route, Graves said. Several hundred thousand people had been expected to attend the parade celebrating the Chiefs' championship victory Sunday.

President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the shooting. Biden said late Wednesday night that the shooting stirs deep emotion because of its ties to a Super Bowl celebration and he asked people to "make your voice heard in Congress." He said the end goal is to ban assault weapons, to limit high-capacity magazines, strengthen background checks, and keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

"The Super Bowl is the most unifying event in America," Biden said. "Nothing brings more of us together. And the celebration of a Super Bowl win is a moment that brings a joy that can’t be matched to the winning team and their supporters. For this joy to be turned to tragedy today in Kansas City cuts deep in the American soul."

Agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the parade and assisting local police, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Shootings at victory rallies are not unheard of in recent years. After the Denver Nuggets’ championship parade last year, a shooting took place in downtown Denver that injured two people, though police said they didn’t believe the incident was associated with the actual celebration. Also last year, an argument resulted in shots being fired at a parking lot near the Texas Rangers’ World Series championship parade. Nobody was injured.

A shooting at a concert in Dallas left one dead and 16 injured in 2022. In October 2017, a gunman opened fire on the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada from his 32nd-floor suites in the Mandalay Bay hotel. He fired more than 1,000 rounds, killing 60 people and wounding at least 413 in what remains the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history.

State officials 'out of harm's way' after attending parade

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he was at the parade with first lady Teresa Parson when shots were fired, but they had safely evacuated.

“State law enforcement personnel are assisting local authorities in response efforts,” Gov. Parson said in a social media post. “As we wait to learn more, our hearts go out to the victims.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was also at the rally but posted an update that she was safe.

“At the end of the Chiefs rally, shots were fired near Union Station. I have been evacuated and am out of harm's way. I encourage everyone to follow instructions and updates from @kcpolice . Please stay safe,” Kelly said on X, formerly Twitter.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas attended the parade with his wife and mother and had to run for cover when gunfire broke out.

“I think that’s something that all of us who are parents, who are just regular people living each day, have to decide what we wish to do about,” Lucas said. “Parades, rallies, schools, movies. It seems like almost nothing is safe.”

Witnesses recount chaos when gunfire broke out

Kevin Sanders, 53, of Lenexa, Kansas, said he heard what sounded like firecrackers and then people running. After that initial flurry, calm returned, and he didn’t think much of it. But he said 10 minutes later, ambulances started showing up.

“It sucks that someone had to ruin the celebration, but we are in a big city,” Sanders said.

Ofilio Martinez, 48, said he heard shots fired a couple blocks away about 10 or 15 minutes before the gunfire near the Union Station rally.

“This is making me nervous, scared,” he said.

Gunfire broke out less than half an hour after Chiefs fans concluded their parade in celebration of the Super Bowl victory. The rally was scheduled to end at Union Station with speeches by players and coaches. 

Photos: Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade went from celebration to deadly shooting

Kansas City was in high spirits before parade

Fans in Kansas City got to experience yet another parade celebrating the Super Bowl champions. This year, Tara Bennett said it was more special as she and her friends cheered the team on throughout the season and defended their title as Super Bowl Champions.

"It was exciting and so much fun seeing the players coming down and having fun with people with their family celebrating the city," Bennett, a Kansas City resident, said. "It was beautiful today and we kept taking layers off because it was warm with the sun beating down."

That was ripped away when she saw news about a possible shooting spread as she and her friend walked toward their car. Their fears were confirmed when they turned on the radio.

Bennett, an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action, said the state has been weakening gun laws for nearly a decade, allowing people to purchase a gun and conceal rifles without a permit, according to both Everytown for Gun Safety and the National Rifle Association .

"This shouldn't have happened and shouldn't have marred and scarred everyone and given a black eye to the city," Bennett said. 

NFL, Chiefs express condolences

The National Football League said it was "deeply saddened by the senseless shooting" that sent shockwaves through Kansas City as throngs of paradegoers ran for cover.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected,” the NFL said.

The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed all of its players, coaches, staff and their families were safe and accounted for. 

"We are truly saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred outside of Union Station at the conclusion of today’s parade and rally. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all of Kansas City,” the Chiefs said in a statement.

Chiefs players took to social media to share their condolences. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said on X he is "praying for Kansas City" in the wake of the shooting.

Chiefs players react to shooting: First responders 'should be celebrated today'

Gun advocates demand for change in wake of shootings

As Kansas City reeled from the shooting tragedy, activists across the country once again called on lawmakers to take action against gun violence.

Kris Brown, president of gun violence prevention group Brady, noted the shooting happened on the sixth anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. There, 17 people were killed by a gunman who is serving multiple life sentences without parole.

“I am heartbroken for the community of Kansas City, the victims and their families, and frankly for all Americans. We should not have to live in daily fear of being shot and killed at parades, at school, or anywhere,” Brown said. “Gun violence is preventable and we have the solutions. We must be resolved to end this deadly epidemic and free America from gun violence.” 

Hillary Schieve, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Reno, Nevada, joined the chorus of voices on Wednesday calling on Capitol Hill to take action.

“Again and again, year after year, we are forced to ask: what will it take for this nation to do something about the easy access to guns in our country? And what will it take for Congress to address this senseless violence that is plaguing far too many American communities?” Schieve said.

Everytown, Mom Demand Action and Students Demand Action said in a Wednesday news release the Super Bowl victory parade should've been "pure joy" but became a tragedy for a community. MDA Executive Director Angela Ferrell-Zabala said in the release the shooting is a marker for politicians to roll back gun laws.

John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said, “This shooting is yet another reminder that no parade, no church, no school — really, nowhere at all — is safe from America’s gun violence crisis."

Parkland shooting anniversary: 6 years later, school librarian works hard to make her space the safest

Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY; Associated Press


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