Hello! Howdy! Hi!
How was your weekend? How is your week going? What a weekend we had! We had a great time boiling crawfish with some friends. Who the hell would stand outside boiling crawfish in 114 degree heat? Yep, you guessed it…
In this week’s episode “Keeping the Main Things the Main Things: Listening for things going wrong,” we continue on our multipart exploration into the “main things” relating to the safety of our workplaces. You can check out the podcast here.
Before we dive into the notes for this week’s episode, check out our friends over at SG World. Along with being a great bunch of people, they offer innovative, useful, and cost saving safety products for you organization/ visit them at SG World!
Measure, count, trend, re-count, trend, count again, chart, cherry-pick, pretend the data makes sense, panic, react, panic some more, “fix” trend, pizza party, repeat. Ah, safety progress! But is it? Are we listening for the right signals from our systems? Can our progress (and future success) within safety be boiled down to a few negative measures lumped together as “indicators?” Our systems are signaling constantly, so what should we be listening for? Rather than measures that tell what has already happened, we should be listening for weak signals of trouble on the horizon.
Weak signals, according to Conklin, are “indicators that tell us when there is a problem happening, not when a problem has happened: ‘You’ll never hear a weak signal in failure, the signal in a failure is loud.’” Historic safety-related indicators (metrics) have focused heavily on the things we do not want to happen within our organization – the boom, bang, pow, oops, ouch, holy shits. Here is the problem, by the time we know about them they have already happened. Focusing on weak signals allows us to discover failure in motion (as it is happening), rather than after is has already happened.
Weak signals viewed from the pointy end…. Dumb – Dangerous – Difficult – Different
The 4 “D’s” indicate the presence of potential complexities like hazards, goal conflicts, production pressure, or something unusual or off normal, A.K.A. the seeds of a disappointing outcome. They often indicate that we lack control, that there is un or under controlled risks present within our work, or that the work is unclear of confusing. When you find the 4D’s dig deep and look for opportunities to insert controls into the work and/or create clarity around the task.
From the podcast: “…We need to be tuning ourselves towards STKY, STRM, and STBY, and then tuning ourselves to be listening for these weak signals of dumb, dangerous, difficult, and different coming from the pointy-end…”
Safety is defined as the presence of positives (the things that we know create a high likelihood for good outcomes) rather than the absence of negatives (accidents, mistakes, errors). We must tune ourselves to be constantly listening for weak signals relating to these indicators around our areas of critical risk (STKY/STRM/STBY) like the presence, verification, monitoring of error tolerant life-saving controls, our margin or capacity, the ability for anyone to stop, question, discuss, and dissent at any point in the task, and ongoing and living discussions about risk and failure.
This mixture of positives, the presence of controls, margin, and monitoring for weak signals, allows us to respond to failure in motion.
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My latest book will be coming out in August 2022. “The Care and Feeding of Safety Practitioners.” You can preorder the Kindle edition here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3B2LLRL