Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Safety Culture as Competitive Capability

A recent McKinsey survey describes companies' desire to use training to build competitive capabilities however, most training actually goes toward lower-priority areas more aligned with the organizations' culture. For example, a company should be focusing its training on developing project management but instead focuses on pricing because price leadership is viewed as an important component of company culture.

This caused us to wonder: How many nuclear managers believe their plant's safety culture is a competitive capability and where is safety culture on the training priority list? We believe that safety culture is actually a competitive asset of nuclear organizations in that safety performance is inextricably linked to overall performance. But how many resources are allocated to safety culture training? How is training effectiveness measured? We fear the traditional tools for such training may not be that effective in actually moving the culture dial, thus not yield measurable competitive benefit.

Hope exists. One unsurprising survey conclusion is "When senior leaders set the agenda for building capabilities, those agendas are more often aligned with the capability most important to performance." (p. 7) The challenge is to get senior nuclear managers to recognize and act on the importance of safety culture training.

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