Foundationally, a culture change cannot occur without a committed understanding of the WHY factor.
Implementing Safety Management Systems: What I’ve Learnt
Many organizations on a global scale embark on a journey to implement structure into their operations at a systematic level. A management system has a place within the ‘how’ we can operate to eliminate variation from the processes that impact the operations of a business. Many commonly known management systems such as ISO 45001, ISO 14001 or ISO 50001 are largely implemented within the environmental, health, safety and risk management profession. Just like business, it is critical to implement elements of continuous improvement within these management systems to enable long-term sustained success for years to come.
Over my career, I’ve implemented and managed several management systems. I’ll talk later about the differences between the strategic enablers of continuous improvement within a management system as well as operational excellence initiatives and how to achieve the WHY factor of this approach. They all serve a defined placeholder within management of the system and without question give a foundation for improvement year after year.
An aspect that I’ve learned through the implementation of these management systems is how to not allow complacency to show through for the organization. This balance of moving forward at a consistent pace is challenging because the appetite for change is not always embraced through all aspects of the organization. This embrace is not the same as a commitment to culture. Foundationally, a culture change cannot occur without a committed understanding of the WHY factor. This WHY is the True North of taking a management system to an operating system and understanding the value of the impact this can do for an organization.
Management System vs Operating System
Organizations that have a management system focus do have the opportunity to turn this into an organizational operating system, but only a few are able to truly integrate to this level. This change is about being able to influence leadership at all levels. At the surface, some may argue there is no difference between a management system and operating system, but there are stark differences. These differences become more apparent at the core of the systems and how they are developed throughout cross-functional departments.
When an operating system is implemented to improve the organization and eliminate variation from the processes with a continuous improvement aspect, it will enable core efficiencies within the business. This committed approach will foster cross-functional support. You can drive short-term climate change with a management system and over time it will become complacent. An operating system with the same 12 pillars will foster culture change and enable a sustainable approach beyond any one leader.
For me, the true successes in making the shift from a management system approach to an operating system are making it foundationally built for the people. In EHS, this is critical to driving further success as you shift from a Numbers to Names approach. This view gives a strategic vision to help foster broader thinking for EHS Professionals. This vantage point looks at how to manage risk(s) as a whole system approach like an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM).
Look at the risk, understand the risk and drive improvement for all avenues of the business. Making EHS an integral part of the business solution and not finding a reason as to why we can’t. This is my chess to checkers comparison. If the intent is to drive short-term quick improvements, a management system approach can be a solution. If the organization is truly set on delivering long-term sustained successes across business lines within the organization, the operating system will culturally and strategically shift the organization in that direction.
Anyone reading this should be able to feel my passion around instilling the Environmental, Health, Safety, and Compliance (EHSC) Profession into the core of the WHY for an organization. Professionals that work in the EHSC Career have an understanding of what it takes to drive sustained success. A journey to ‘zero harm’ truly means that no one gets hurt and is able to go home to their families. The operating system approach is an enabler to shift the WHY message to names and not numbers.
Adam L. Bates, MS. MBA
Managing Director at A&C Enterprise Solutions LLC
Innovative, results-oriented Environmental, Health, Safety and Security Leader with a successful record of developing and executing robust global business strategies at leading companies including Honeywell, Owens Corning, Daido Metal, Inteva Products, and Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. Proven ability to build, inspire and lead international cross-functional teams to increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
Significant experience leading change and implementing new processes globally. Broadly focused on continuous improvement to drive dramatic reductions in key environmental, health and safety metrics. A data-driven hands-on business leader with deep expertise in global compliance issues and operations who applies a ‘big picture’ outlook.
Recognized as a national leader in Environmental, Health, and Safety: Listed in “The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2014-2015” (EHS Today); Listed as “Superheroes of Safety Who Inspire Us” (June 2017 EHS Today); Appointed 2017 Board of Directors Delegate (National Safety Council).
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