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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Goal Zero Leads To Risk-Taking

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

When organizations measure themselves against their number of failures can be a hazardous approach. It leads the employees to alter how they deal with their daily tasks, and only sometimes positively.

Consider your health; what is it - is it 'looking' healthy? But, of course, it isn't; we all need to visit the doctor for a check-up, to have our blood taken and analyzed, to stress test our hearts to verify that the way we look on the outside matches what it is on the inside (for better or worse).

Having a zero-incident goal within the organization is usually aligned with companies that perform in the middle of the spectrum, not at the top end. Organizations that serve at the upper-end focus on sustainable results and measure their performance on what they do, not what they don't.

How organizations decide to frame their goals toward excellence is critical. For example, if they determine their performance is substandard, what do they need to do to improve? What steps are required? How do we measure that we're doing these steps correctly?

Having zero incidents is not necessarily a reflection that all the steps necessary are being taken; it could simply be that the organization has been lucky or that employees are doing whatever it takes to meet the zero objective - usually exposing themselves to risk unknowingly. But once we reward luck, we head down the rabbit hole of basing our performance on luck. Once we 'luckily' reach an objective, we believe we have a sustainable result - I'm not sure this is what organizations want. It'll only be after an accident that they'll be able to discover that the 'steps' that they thought were being done weren't being done.

Incidents are a failure in an organization's systems; they represent an opportunity to identify where and why failures occurred, and often the reasons are incredibly complex. Assuming that no incidents are equivalent to safety excellence is also assuming that all those complex reasons for good performance are being done perfectly every time - is this an honest reflection of the organization?

The zero-incident goal promotes a mentality of 'don't fail' - but if you were to speak to management teams, more often than not, they'd assert they want their workforce to have the mentality of 'can we do this better? Focusing on not failing is a self-limiting mentality; it prevents the workforce from continually asking themselves, "is this the best way we could be doing this."

Having 'goal zero' is lazy; it means that organizations don't have to break down their work, understand what excellence looks like, and subsequently educate their workforce on the same. If organizations took the time to do so, they'd understand what contributes to success and what attributes of the individual and organization are needed to motivate success. This has a ripple effect on what employees will understand to be the values, behavior, and activities they need to do to contribute to success. What will be the result once they get there - more success and continuous improvement?

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