Measuring Safety: A Call for a New Approach
- Philip W. Hurst (Hurst Behavioral Group Inc.) | Quincey Jones (Optimum Performance Solutions)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- September 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 45 - 49
- 2016. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 76 since 2007
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- Sophisticated dashboards and real-time data are standard in the field of safety, but safety data may be conceptually flawed. Quantitative analysis has provided critical data to make key safety decisions, but it may not be telling the whole story.
- Although safety professionals are collecting more data, measurement systems may not inspire questioning and curiosity.
- The future will merge qualitative and quantitative data, which will make for a more robust measurement system.
Inspirational quotes by management gurus abound. These quotes are designed to distill the essence of profound management knowledge into a single, stand-alone statement or slogan that will motivate and influence corporate leaders to make wise decisions and employees to take action. As the information age of society has advanced and computer power has evolved, the famous expression, “What gets measured gets managed,” or its cousin statement, “What gets measured gets done” (both quotes often ambiguously attributed to various people, including Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, W. Edwards Deming and Lord Kelvin), has a special appeal to allow data to be our guide. Intuitively, one would assume that the leader who measures the most would, therefore, know the most and can lead the way.
As a result, sophisticated dashboards and real-time data are becoming standard board room fixtures for corporate leaders to huddle around and make their strategic plans, road maps and tactical objectives to produce high-performing organizations. Advancements in quantitative analysis (numerical, objective, repeatable data) have allowed for the measurement of things once seen as too soft to understand. For example, we can now measure critical factors associated with organizational culture and leadership transformational skills (Denison, Hooijberg, Lane, et al., 2012; Kotter & Heskett, 1992; Schein, 2010). But before a leader buys into the quantitative approach wholeheartedly and bets his/her credibility on it, serious questions should be asked about the assumptions we create when we measure.
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