Monday, September 26, 2011

Beyond Training - Reinforcing Culture

One of our recurring themes has been how to strengthen safety culture, either to sustain an acceptable level of culture or to address weaknesses and improve it.  We have been skeptical of the most common initiative - retraining personnel on safety culture principles and values.  Simply put, we don’t believe you can PowerPoint or poster your way to culture improvement.

By comparison we were more favorably inclined to some of the approaches put forth in a recent New York Times interview of Andrew Thompson, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.  As Thompson observes,

“...it’s the culture of what you talk about, what you celebrate, what you reward, what you make visible.  For example, in this company, which is very heavily driven by intellectual property, if you file a patent or have your name on a patent, we give you a little foam brain.”*

Foam “brains”.  How clever.  He goes on to describe other ideas such as employees being able to recognize each other for demonstrating desired values by awarding small gold coins (a nice touch here as the coins have monetary value that can be realized or retained as a visible trophy), and volunteer teams that work on aspects of culture.  The common denominator of much of this: management doesn’t do it, employees do.

*  A. Bryant, “Speak Frankly, but Don’t Go ‘Over the Net’,” New York Times (September 17, 2011).

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