Strategy and operational complexity

Ahmed El HadidiAchieving zero injuries, illnesses and incidents are predominantly the utmost goals of companies. 

These goals often become the driver and the fundament of their strategy and responsibility lies with the Health and Safety (H&S) practitioner. 

However this is a negative perception as it strays H&S from all other functions of the organisation and makes it an independent function and the responsibility of one person. Some would argue that this is incorrect and that their organisations have a completely different attitude; safety is the responsibility of each individual in the organisation. 

In that case some could be inclined to ask: do you still need an H&S person in your organisation? In short, the answer would be yes, you do need an H&S person. However the role they have must be different than what is currently perceived or being implemented.

Depending on the answer to the above question that a company gives, we would be able to assess what type of strategy they adopt. There are two types of strategies: compliance strategy and excellence strategy. The latter has different levels - from basic to excellent. 

The Health and Safety strategy (a wrong term to use in my opinion) is not dependant on the type of business or industry, nor the complexity of the operation. 

Companies in all industries should aim to achieve excellence, not compliance. They do that in all business aspects: safety is one of the business aspects that should be the main focus and responsibility from top to bottom of the organisation.

In order to perfect a strategy, the company should have a clear vision to what it wants to achieve. A vision will help set a properly-designed strategy that includes safety and that can deal with the most complex operation system. 

For a strategy to be successful, you need to have some pillars, a structure to ensure that all elements and resources are aligned and competent enough to perform accordingly. The second pillar is the definition, which is a very important aspect as it endorses what is to be achieved and what the success criteria are. 

Another important question that should be clear is the “How”. This integrates many aspects; how do we do that, how to achieve the target, how to ensure the competence of people, how to measure, and so on. 

So far we have set the basics and the systems yet there is another aspect that we need to include – at different levels: The employees. People excel when they are engaged, people get engaged when they believe in what they will do, they do feel they belong and mostly have the freedom to make decisions (to a certain level). Good leadership and finding that trigger in individuals - the answer to why they should participate - creates engagement.

By combining leadership and a good vision, a perfect strategy will emerge. Leadership will consider individuals to decide on the strategy, to build it and to adopt it. This will expand leadership to every individual within the organisation, therefore eliminating the role of the H&S practitioner from a policeman, doer, or actually an H&S strategy maker. 

It will create a community of people with one role: always improve your activity by either direct implementation or identification and consultation of improvement areas. H&S practitioners will then have a different role. Their role will become strategic and transformational rather than transactional as it currently is.

In conclusion, strategies should be set to create a positive behaviour and approach to work and issues. It is not set to improve the business profitability or safety improvement; this comes naturally as a result, not as a goal. 

Our guest blog is from Ahmed El Hadidi, who is the Chair of the UAE branch of IOSH.

Post date: 01 Oct 2015

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