Thursday, September 24, 2009

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game. It is the game.”

The quote is from Lou Gerstner, retired Chairman of IBM, and appears in an interesting presentation by the management team at Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Company.  In it they put forth their perspectives on addressing culture change within their organization.  There are many good points in the presentation and several I would like to specifically highlight.

First, the issue of trust is addressed on several slides.  For example, on the Engaged Employees slide (p. 24) it is noted that training in building trust had been initiated and would be ongoing.  A later slide, Effective Leadership Team (p. 31), notes that there was increased trust at the station.  In our thinking about safety management, and specifically in our simulation modeling, we include trust as a key variable and driver of safety culture.  Trust is a subjective ingredient but its importance is real.  We think there are at least two mechanisms for building trust within an organization.  One is through the type of initiatives described in the slides – direct attention and training in creating trust within the management team and staff.  A second mechanism that perhaps does not receive as much recognition is the indirect impact of decisions and actions taken by the organization and the extent to which they model desired safety values.  This second mechanism is very powerful as it reflects reality.  If reality comports with the espoused values, it reinforces the values and builds trust.  If reality is contra to the values, it will undermine any amount of training or pronouncements about trust.

The second point to be highlighted is addressed on the Culture slide in the Epilogue section (p.35).  There it is noted that as an industry we are good at defining the desired behaviors, but we are not good at defining how to achieve a culture where most people practice those behaviors.  We think there is a lot of truth in this and the “how” aspect of building and maintaining a robust safety culture is something that merits more attention.  “Practicing” those behaviors is the subject of our white paper, “Practicing Nuclear Safety Management.”

Link to presentation.


  1. Does anyone have a current link to the presentation? This link seems to no longer work.

    1. Pls send me an email and I will get the presentation to you.


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