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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Navigating Safety Culture Assessments: Aligning Strategy and Excellence

Updated: Jul 18

Improving safety culture is a top priority for organizations, but the path to achieving it can be perplexing. Whether you're managing and evolving your culture or being shaped by it, understanding how to enhance safety culture is crucial. Safety culture assessments have gained popularity, but are they truly identifying the right aspects? Are they helping organizations create a vision for cultural excellence or simply highlighting gaps and improvement opportunities? In this article, we'll explore the importance of aligning safety culture with business strategy and how effective culture assessments can validate and enhance your path to operational excellence.

Many assessments focus solely on identifying gaps in safety culture without establishing a clear executive vision of what cultural excellence entails. This approach often leads organizations to allocate time and resources to address every possible gap without prioritizing which ones should be addressed first. This raises questions: What gaps should be closed first? Which ideas and improvement opportunities will provide the most value and propel us strategically forward? It's important to avoid getting lost in a sea of gaps and instead focus on a strategic direction.

The field of safety is evolving rapidly, and more organizations are embarking on the journey to Safety Culture Excellence. Today's efforts in safety management systems and cultural development far surpass those of a decade ago. Some organizations are propelled forward by tragic incidents that serve as defining moments, while others adopt proactive measures driven by altruism and recognition of potential risks. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that seeking excellence is not solely about minimizing mistakes or achieving zero injuries. It's about learning from others' experiences and striving for continuous improvement.

Every individual possesses unique characteristics and capabilities, just as every organization has its own distinct culture, including its safety culture. Attempting to mimic another location or company's safety culture can be demotivating and counterproductive.

Unfortunately, many perception surveys and culture assessments often highlight how organizations compare to others, leading them to replicate what others are doing instead of focusing on their unique strategic needs. It's important to align your safety culture with your business strategy while considering the broader aspects of company culture.

When discussing safety culture, it's crucial not to overlook the broader company culture beyond safety. Assessments should encompass both aspects, treating safety culture as a part of the overall business culture. Just as businesses develop hypotheses and utilize models to shape their strategy, safety-conscious organizations with successful outcomes have clear strategies and use assessments and surveys to validate their hypotheses.

Statements like "We need a safety culture" or "Our culture could be better" should not immediately prompt assessments. Rather, they indicate that the current strategy may be ineffective or absent.

Culture assessments are most effective as data-collection exercises to validate the future vision hypothesized in the business strategy. Safety culture must align with and contribute to the overall business strategy, including future plans. Assessments used to seek improvement opportunities without first establishing what you aim to achieve in the business and how the culture and performance should support that vision can lead you in an arbitrary direction. Successful organizations utilize culture assessments to validate their vision for achieving operational excellence and prioritize actions that support their strategic agenda.

Navigating safety culture assessments requires a strategic approach. By aligning safety culture with business strategy, organizations can create a clear vision for cultural excellence and prioritize actions accordingly. Effective culture assessments should validate the strategy, improve the execution, and contribute to the success of operational goals. It's time to move beyond simplistic gap analysis and embrace a holistic approach that fosters alignment, uniqueness, and continuous improvement. When strategy and safety culture intertwine harmoniously, organizations can achieve unparalleled safety performance and long-term success.

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