What are you going to STOP doing?

| February 25, 2009

Many OHS management systems and programs have a major problem – they are bloated with paperwork, inefficient in their operation and filled with busywork.  These programs are often focused on the achievement of arbitrary metrics rather than improved OH&S performance. As a result, the managers of these programs are often fed-up, burned out and overwhelmed.  They are also increasingly being told – “Given the current economy, you need to do more with less.”

That is the wrong message and the wrong goal. 

To quote Peter Drucker – “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently what should not be done at all.” 

The goal should not be to do more with less – it should be to do less.

What many OHS programs really need is a good pruning.  It is common for occupational health and safety management systems – particularly those driven by corporate mandates – to be filled with procedural “deadwood” and nonsensical “undergrowth”.

Want to start cutting back?  Try the following –

1.  Re-examine your Assumptions

Often OH&S programs are put in place because of so-called “good practice”.  These “good practices” are often characterized as requirements so the needed resources can be justified. 

Review your programs and procedures. For each program, procedure and form, re-examine the assumption that “we must do it this way”.   Do you need to do it at all?  Is there a more effective way?

2. Push Back on Busywork

It is a fact of life.  People like to tell other people how to do things. 

Evaluate the “busywork” quotient of your processes and procedures.  Avoid creating unnecessary work for others and “push back” when others attempt to do the same to you. 

  • Don’t create a twenty page procedure if a one page form will do. 
  • Don’t take on activities simply because they are “a nice idea” (often defined as something mentioned in a meeting by someone in senior management).
  • Don’t add multiple layers of redundancy when it is not needed – especially if it is only to please some auditor.

3.  Keep Your Focus on Performance

Make sure you truly understand your OHSMS requirements – your OH&S risks and your legal obligations.  Focus your efforts on addressing these first – in as an efficient a manner as possible.  Say “NO” to suggestions that are not focused on improving your OHS performance.

4.  Be a Tortoise not a Hare

Focus each day on consistently moving forward.  It is easy to get discouraged when progress is slow and results are not readily apparent. Keep at it. 

Remain vigilant.  Resist the temptation to take on more than you have the resources to reasonably accomplish. If you have a plan and keep focused on doing what is important – rather than adding in additional activities that are new and exciting – you can accomplish your goals. 

Pruning is not easy. 

The status quo is often comfortable.  Change often meets with resistance. 

 You are very likely to hear – “We have always done it this way.  Why do we have to change?”

The answer – to survive when resources are scarce.

Need additional help? 

Check out the following –

  • Abandoning the Obsolete and Unproductive – Column on Human Resources IQ website discussing why organizations need to prune their efforts. (Link removed 7/27/11 because no longer accessible)
  • The Power of a Positive No by William Ury – Book offering concrete advice for saying No.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)

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Category: OHSMS Implementation, Resources & Tools

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