Have you heard the phrase, “What gets measured gets done”?
The meaning behind that statement may be up for debate. But no matter what the exact wording is, or where the quote truly originated, when done right, measurement can help a company focus on its goals, says Ruth Henderson, co-founder of Whiteboard Consulting Group Inc., a change management company that helps organizations improve performance.
Henderson has more than 25 years of experience in business process improvement in both the private the public sectors.
We sat down with Henderson to talk about what it looks like when your organization is using data to support safety and to improve performance. Let’s take a look at six of the top signs that show your data is working for you.
Sign #1: What you’re measuring is challenging and motivating
When behaviors, activities, and outcomes are measured, and there is ongoing feedback to support those positive activities, we know it will increase the motivation to perform.
In general, that could include:
- Tracking the number of safety audits and results of those audits
- Data that captures the kind of behaviors in place (or not in place) during activities such as safety audits
- Tracking the number and types of incidents that have occurred
- Capturing specific data on individual incidents (which can be used in analysis)
“By tracking things that matter most, it automatically sparks a natural, deep instinct to challenge ourselves, or compete with ourselves, or even in some cases, to compete with others,” adds Henderson.
On the other hand: without any kind of goal or measurement in place, there’s little incentive to improve or to change behaviors.
A healthy organization is able to use that data-driven approach to help make numbers visible. Second, through the process, they help motivate employees towards behaviors that align with safety and compliance objectives.
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Sign #2: Leading and lagging measures are driving action and change
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A lagging measure tells you a measure once something has happened. It is still beneficial, but there’s a lot you can’t do or change about what’s already happened in the past.
Organizations using leading indicators can see how well activities are performing that have been determined as the most likely factors that can positively impact an outcome. “They are lead measures because they are driving the outcome in advance of the measurement of that outcome,” says Henderson.
Companies looking at this data often have operations-based indicators (compliance-related, risk assessments, preventive and corrective actions, etc.); systems-based indicators (hazard identification and recognition, hazard analysis, reinforcement systems, etc.); and behavior-based leading indicators (measurements of safety engagement, area observations, at-risk behaviors, walk-arounds, etc.).
Sign #3: Data equips EHS professionals to answer, “So what?”
In organizations that are using data to drive continuous improvement, that information may be presented in a number format, but it’s often presented in a concise, visual way so that workers across the company can understand the “why” behind the numbers.
Just as important, they should be able to know “So what?” after seeing the data.
“Organizations and teams should be built around being able to tell a story with numbers. That story should be presented in a way that’s easy for people to understand when they are not numbers-oriented. And that ability to take the typical business scorecard or draft dashboard, or report, and distill it down into a very short story is powerful,” says Henderson.
“The ability to really tell that story succinctly, and to summarize what’s there, and to highlight the results of not addressing it, or addressing it, and to answer ‘what’s next’ is the key,” says Henderson.
Sign #4: Data is tied to what matters most
When an organization is measuring the right things, they can always tie it directly to an objective or a goal for the organization.
“There’s power in that on its own,” says Henderson. Specific to safety efforts, that means leaders can know, with confidence, their highest risk areas and take meaningful action to prevent future accidents when they are using data the right way.
“When the data is tied back to objectives, people know that they’re doing something that matters. Then they are able to understand and see the link between what is being measured, and why it’s being measured, and the result of what will happen,” she adds.
Sign #5: Data is accessible
In organizations that are not using data to their advantage, they may take the time to measure and monitor, but it can end up an executive’s desk and no action is taken. What’s worse is when that information isn’t shared or isn’t easily accessible by others in the company who can use it to improve safety.
Once you take the time to gather the data, and organize it in a way where it tells a story, and can be acted upon, it’s critical to share the data. Organizations that do this well will show what is being measured is in fact being measured, what the outcomes are, and then how it impacts and/or benefits everyone.
Sign #6: Data enhances opportunities to reward and reinforce behaviors
When organizations have the data that can show how workers are doing the right things, it can help them reinforce those positive behaviors.
“The best employees and the highest-performing employees, want to see the numbers, and they want to know how they’re doing,” says Henderson. “These workers want to be able to tie that with their reward system,” she says.
“When you see that, and you’re able to do give some kind of reward or reinforcement, it’s a lot better than having a set of objectives that are intrinsic. Those are still important, but really hard if not impossible to quantify and measure.”
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