Coming up in the fall, I attend my first weekend long seminar to begin the process of writing my PhD thesis. I am a little behind in taking this first class, but that’s what life will do to you. I am both excited and nervous about this first deep dive into the process of researching and writing the paper. My goal had duality when I began my PhD journey. I will first start with the more selfish reason why I began the process. I had just completed my MBA, and I was in a job where an internal promotion was available. I was never interviewed and at that point I thought, “What’s it take to get an interview around here? A Ph.D!” Two events stemmed from that experience: 1) I started a PhD program. 2) I found a new job.
Beyond my pettiness, the real reason that I began a PhD in I/O psychology is that it really interests me. There are not many researchers that are taking that deep look at the behaviors that drive safety compliance and safer behaviors. I wanted to start my journey of learning focusing on how to influence people so that they are safer at work and home. Now that I am at the part of the program and beginning the process of drafting my thesis, I am honestly a bit overwhelmed. When I start to craft the question that I want to explore further, it continues to get bigger and bigger. I suffer from a case of scope creep. I think of a good idea, then think of a dozens ways to expand it. I do this because I am concerned that my small scope research will not be good enough, and I feel that I need to solve a bigger problem. I keep seeking that silver bullet approach to creating safer behaviors. I want to find that amazing simple answer that everyone is looking for in how to transform an organization to one of safety excellence. The problem with that thought process is that it is faulty. There is one thing my years of safety experience has taught me is that there is no one simple answer to making an organization safer.
All the prior information finally leads me to the point of this post. The answer for a safer organization is really three big topics that are neither easy nor simple. What does it take to have a safer organization (the title gives it away): Compassion, Consistency, and Continuous Improvement. It is the combination of those three items that create not only create a safer organization but creates a better organization. Safety is so people oriented, that relatively small waves in the rest of the business can create big impacts. They are also not felt immediately. Good work in the organization pays off later in safety. It takes time for those changes to impact the influence of safety. Again, it reinforces why I am studying industrial and organizational psychology. It is the interactions between people and the organization that has the largest impact on the safety of the workforce.
In Part 2 of this series, there will be a deeper dive of what does compassion, consistency, and continuous improvement mean for safety. Unfortunately, they are not easy topics to define, implement, or quantify. These items take organizational excellence to accomplish, which would also explain why so many companies struggle with safety excellence. This, though, makes sense. If it was easy everyone would have mastered it.