In 1983, Prochaska & DiClemente theorized that there was process of making behavioral change. This five step model was developed while evaluating how people changed from unhealthy to healthy behavior. From a safety standpoint, there are many similarities in how behavioral change is made. Safety is about choices and behaviors that come with a healthy approach to the workplace and risk.
Stage 3: Preparation (pre action)
People at this stage are ready to start taking action within the next 30 days. They take small steps that they believe can help them make the healthy behavior a part of their lives. For example, they tell their friends and family that they want to change their behavior.
People in this stage should be encouraged to seek support from friends they trust, tell people about their plan to change the way they act, and think about how they would feel if they behaved in a healthier way. Their number one concern is: when they act, will they fail? They learn that the better prepared they are, the more likely they are to keep progressing.
Even though this theory focuses on personal health, there are many aspects that align with making a cultural safety change.
Notice that this phase of change takes 30 days. How many times is a company willing to plan for 30 days before making a change?
In defense of quick change, there are time when a safety issue emerges in which change is immediately necessary. For these types of changes, the culture has to come through less planning and more action. For example, it is discovered that a glove change can prevent significant lacerations. The change comes immediately. So how does the company create the culture of this new glove use? They go and inspect frequently. In lean terms this is called a “Gemba.” You go the to place where the work is taking place and see what is happening. This is where coaching and mentoring really makes the difference. This is where you help people understand the whys and hows of the new policy. There will be times where people need reminded of the policy. There will be also times where people need to be appreciated for following the policy. Communication is key!
Speaking of communication, that is what preparation is all about. A company is about to roll out a behavior based safety program or a employee participation committee or a new way of making reports of potential issues, the next thirty days is all about communication. Have you over communicated the message? That is still not enough. To develop the cultural shift that is coming, the team needs to hear the message over and over. They need to see the message in many formats and in many forums. There also needs to be opportunity for questions and understanding. The more planning that is put into place the less action that has to take place. There is always some amount of communication and Gemba as part of any change, but they do have a causal relationship.
The goal during this phase of the process is to communicate and help the behaviors become adjusted to the new culture. Behavior and culture is not created over night. It is a process of helping a team adjust through proper planning and communication for the change that is about to happen.