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Communicating a Clear Strategy

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Recently, I observed a situation in an all-hands meeting at a plant, where the lack of a clear safety strategy became evident. A supervisor inquired about the strategic safety direction, and surprisingly, the plant manager acknowledged the absence of a defined path. This is not uncommon in our industry, where there's often a gap between the assumption of effective communication by executives and the actual understanding of safety strategy among employees. Let's delve into why clear communication of safety strategy is essential and how to ensure it resonates throughout the organization.

Overcoming the Illusion of Communication

George Bernard Shaw's observation about the illusion of communication is especially relevant in safety. Executives might believe their strategic safety vision is well communicated, but often it's not effectively conveyed or understood by the workforce. A clear, memorable, and consistently repeated direction is essential for aligning employees toward common safety objectives.

Establishing a Unified Safety Vision

In a workshop with executives of a global oil and gas company, the COO expressed concerns about a lack of unified vision in safety. This led to the realization that for alignment and collaboration, everyone needs to work from a 'common page' – which, unfortunately, is often missing.

Evaluating Communication Effectiveness

To determine if your safety strategy is effectively communicated, consider:

  1. Who was involved in creating the strategy?

  2. Has the strategic direction reached all organizational levels?

  3. Do employees at all levels own and believe in this direction?

  4. Can individuals at any level act upon this strategy?

  5. How often is the strategy reinforced behaviorally?

  6. Are there balanced consequences (both positive and negative) for actions aligning with or against the strategy?

  7. What motivators or demotivators might affect this strategic direction?

  8. If asked, could your workforce recite the safety strategy from memory?

The Challenge of Articulating Safety Strategy

Stephen King's words resonate here: conveying something as vital as safety strategy is challenging. It's not just about having a plan and passion; it's about ensuring that everyone in the organization understands, owns, and can act upon this strategy.

Key Takeaways for Effective Safety Communication

  1. Honest Evaluation: Regularly assess how well the safety strategy is understood across your organization.

  2. Effective Knowledge Transfer: Utilize various methods to ensure that the safety strategy is communicated clearly and memorably.

  3. Ownership at All Levels: Encourage every employee to take personal responsibility for safety, aligned with the strategic direction.

  4. Behavioral Reinforcement: Consistently reinforce the safety strategy through actions, not just words.

  5. Balanced Consequences: Implement both rewards and repercussions to support the safety strategy.

  6. Understanding Motivators and Demotivators: Recognize factors within your organization that may impact the effectiveness of the safety strategy.

As a HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry, I stress the importance of clearly communicating the safety strategy. It's crucial for not just the management but every employee to understand, believe in, and act upon this strategy. This clarity and alignment are key to propelling an organization towards sustainable safety excellence. Remember, a well-articulated safety strategy, reinforced by actions and a collective commitment, can significantly elevate an organization's safety culture and performance.

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