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To create a successful ergonomics process at your organization you may have to first create a sense of urgency. VelocityEHS’ James Mallon discusses this first step in organizational change, as outlined in John Kotter’s book, “Leading Change”.

Video Transcript

Hey everybody! Jamie Mallon from HumanTech (now VelocityEHS Ergonomics) here with another installment of HT Whiteboard. Last time, I introduced the notion of organizational transformation. I based it on this book called Leading Change with John Kotter, in which he describes an eight-stage process for leading change.

The first element, or the first stage, that he identifies is overcoming complacency, or creating a sense of urgency.

He identifies nine different sources of complacency, and I’ve got them listed here. The first one is that there’s no crisis to be averted or no crisis to deal with. Now, we don’t want crises in safety, but sometimes they create a real impetus for change. Another one is no external feedback, that is that we never look outside of the four walls that we work within to see how our performance is. Are we doing well? How are we doing in terms of our performance in our industry for ergonomics or for health and safety? That becomes an issue, and there’s lots of ways to do that. The first is, you can benchmark with your competitors or benchmark with people similar to your industry, or go to conferences, see what other people are doing. Also, you can also hire consultants who have a lot of experience in that area.

The next one is happy talk that is being too positive about the current situation. On the flip side of that is this kill the messenger culture where you actually don’t want to hear that there are problems, so you got to avoid having that sort of culture embedded in your safety organization or within your ergonomics process.

Another source of complacency is a structure that drives too much focus, that is it’s not cross functional. You don’t get ideas from different departments or see how different problems might be manifesting themselves in engineering versus health and safety versus operations.

Using the wrong metrics, this is another big one. So often we see companies that are focused on injury-illness rate or workers compensation costs. Both of those are lagging indicators and are very hard to use to steer the ship going forward. In fact, they’re never going to tell you that you’re headed towards a crisis. We prefer leading metrics like understanding the level of risk or ergonomic risk within our organization.

Here’s a funny one: too many visible resources. That is your company is doing too well. There’s too much money; the compensation cost doesn’t really have a big impact on profit. Therefore, it doesn’t get the attention that it might deserve.

Here’s one we can all identify with: human nature. Here, we’re talking about our natural aversion to change. Our natural aversion takes on new things. We, especially in the context of today’s workplace and today’s family pressures, this one could be a lot to overcome, but it’s certainly one that we can all address.

Here’s another one I like, low standards. That is the expectation for performance that is set by our senior leadership team is low. They don’t expect us to have a world class safety performance, they don’t expect us to have a great ergonomics process that drives improvement.

These are the nine sources of complacency that we have to overcome as an organization. Once we identify them, what we really have to do is create a guiding coalition. That’s the next step in the eight-stage process, creating a group of people that can drive change and be champions for change within the organization.

I’m going to talk about that stage next at the next HT Whiteboard, which I hope will be in the next month or so. Until then, grab this book ‘Leading Change’ by John Kotter and take a flip through it. It’ll be a great resource for you, as you implement and go down your journey of putting in place a world class economics process. Till then, take care and we’ll talk to you soon.