Have we become OSH data junkies?

I was relieved to learn today, that far from saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” what W. Edwards Deming actually said was “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” Phew! It’s puzzling isn’t it, that the shortened version – which is actually the opposite of what he did say – should become the mantra that it has, almost without question, in so many quarters? Perhaps it’s that we’d prefer it to be true; that otherwise complex and intangible things, can be reduced to simple facts and figures. I’m increasingly of the opinion that in occupational safety and health (OSH), we’ve taken things too far and that we’ve become ‘OSH data junkies’, fixated to the point of obsession with measuring stuff. For me, there’s far more to managing well than managing what you can measure. I’ll put my hand up; my name is Michael Emery and I have been a data junkie. I’ve bought in to the balanced scorecard dashboard key performance indicator metric world as much as the next man/woman and I do still believe in the value of data, to an extent. I’ve come to realise however that just because I believe for example, that the more people at work talk about safety, the better it is, that isn’t enough of a reason to measure the number of conversations. I understand of course that carefully selected KPIs, encourage the behaviours you want and therefore measuring the number of conversations will drive up the number of conversations. I get that, but that’s kind...

Does role-play even work?

How do you feel when you realise that the course you’ve attended will involve role-play exercises? Do you suddenly get a feeling similar to that of a small lump of cement in the pit of your stomach? And are you then ever so slightly distracted by the thought of what’s to come? Does anyone actually enjoy role-play? More importantly, does role-play even work, meaning do the participants of role-play actually gain any insights or benefit or are they so pre-occupied trying to remember the details of the scenario and the part they’re trying to play and avoiding feeling like a fool, to actually learn what they’re supposed to be learning? In our experience, role-play just doesn’t work and we wouldn’t entertain the idea of including it in any of our programmes. We believe we can do better than resorting to role-play in ways which are far more rewarding. Our IOSH Approved Coaching for safety programme for example, is highly-participative and is packed full of 1:1 conversations including exercises on curiosity, on listening and of course there are coaching-skills sessions too. We contact delegates before the event and ask them to bring real-life subjects, giving them examples of what delegates before them have brought. Consequently, delegates bring issues and problems that they’re having to deal with and would welcome help with – issues that are real and that matter. For sure, when it comes to the 1:1 conversation in class, the opening “Hello, how are you today …” is a little contrived, but because the topic is real and it matters, the engagement quickly becomes genuine. And not only do...