How often have you sat in management meetings, or spoken with other HSE professionals, and heard the words, ’operational excellence’ being spoken? Whether it’s talking about your own organisation or others, it seems like a relatively lofty goal to achieve. Furthermore, what does operational excellence even mean for health and safety departments? Does it refer to organisations who have no injuries and/or recordables or does it mean organisations who strive to constantly learn and improve, whether failures happen or not?
Defining Operational Excellence
Let’s start off with the first question; what does operational excellence mean, especially when we talk about health and safety? For some, it is synonymous with ’best practices’ or ’world class’ but is that really sufficient? Maybe we should be more focused around thinking of it as ’good practices’ across the organisation. A few crucial attributes worth noting are:
- An understanding that regulations/compliance is the baseline
- Leadership is actively involved in all aspects of the organisation
- Technology is crucial to prove insight and create predictive analytics for continuous improvement
- Processes, which promote continual learning, are vital to growing and improving
- Health and safety is not just a priority but, more importantly, it is a value
Wherever you and your company are on the organisational path, it really makes no difference; what does matter is understanding how to continually improve. All organisations must start somewhere, but learning how to move forward and reach true “excellence” is not always easy. Continual learning enables us to think differently and view health and safety as a true value add and not just a priority.
Productivity + Quality + Safety = Operational Excellence
Another crucial aspect to understand is the relationship of productivity, quality, and safety. Ultimately, when working together, all three of those qualities will lead to a business with positive returns. When any one of them fails, whether it be a lack of productivity or employees getting injured, what will happen to the bottom line revenue; the short answer is it will be negatively impacted. Thus, when we talk about the integration of productivity, quality, and safety and how organisations can truly show continual learning and improvement, it is when those qualities are fluid throughout the company culture that we see the most crucial steps forward. Additionally, the C-suite understands the importance of being transparent and showing that value. Truly ’excellent’ companies don’t just talk safety, they demonstrate it in all aspects.
What Should the End Goal Be?
How do you know if you achieve operational excellence? This is not a trick question, but a logical one which takes some introspection. As we continually strive to learn and think differently about health and safety, we should realise it’s a continual process. The end goal is not an outcome. The end goal is another step forward. As we think about improving and contemplate trying to come up with various new processes to enhance and keep our employees healthy and safe, whether on and/or off the job, it is imperative to realise the more added value we create, the better. Making health and safety ’real’ for all employees, and thinking about protection before anything happens, is an easy way to show that value. There are a number of aspects around this, but operational excellence isn’t just a quick conversation around zero incidents. Conversely, operational excellence is about uncovering various ways to improve and want to improve. Every day is a new day to be better.
As you go out into your organization, wherever it is, realise true health and safety is about people, and determining various processes to keep them healthy and safe.
How are you looking to change your health and safety this year?
I'm sure you'd agree that it’s time to throw away the old ways of doing things and re-imagine new ways to get things done to make a difference in your organisation. Download our 2021 Virtual Health and Safety Forum recordings, where you can learn:
- How to change from a reactive to proactive approach to health and safety
- Ways to incorporate the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle into your program
- How to build safety efficiency and demonstrate value
- Best practices in establishing a feedback loop