5 Tips for Large Scale Implementation of Behavior Based Safety

Colleagues from Sweden contacted me recently to ask for advice on large scale implementation of Behavior-Based Safety (BBS).  If you are unfamiliar with BBS, I highly recommend reading the work of the Dr. Tim Ludwig, a.k.a. Safety-Doc or Dr. Terry McSween and team at the Quality Safety Edge. As have my colleagues, I have had the great honor and experience to support BBS in oil refineries, construction sites, warehouses and chemical plants.  So many unique aspects to these organizations, and BBS is flexible enough to support each of them to stellar results.   

If you are looking to or already in the process of implementing BBS across an organization with several facilities, across several locations geographically, and maybe even several departments, consider the following steps in your journey.  This is in no way an exhaustive list, but one that has served me and other colleagues well over the years.  

1 - PILOT FIRST TO PROVE CONCEPT. 

A pilot test is always a great idea and grounded in science – identify, test, evaluate, modify, then implement modifications, and continue evaluating. As for large scale changes, pilots can provide a wealth of learning and early conclusions of how to make BBS sustain across the organization.  Pilots are also valuable to engage individuals who may be skeptical of any change. Seeing results and learning from part of the organization can help accelerate implementation, and continue evolution as well.

2 – COLLABORATIVE APPROACH IS BEST.  

Train the leaders so to speak. You need a team of leaders who can lead the implementation across the organization. By business unit or department or geographic location. These leaders become the point person for implementing the work for their identified group, as well as working with the whole implementation team.  A collaborative approach between the team of leaders implementing BBS, the management team, and the employees at the location will yield better results and ultimately will be more rewarding for everyone.

3 - DESIGN IT TO SHOW DEMONSTRATED SUCCESS OVER TIME.  

In science, a research design model called multiple-baseline design can help us in our implementation efforts at a large scale. Are you familiar with this design model? If not, read this http://www.psych.uncc.edu/pagoolka/Ch7MultipleBaseline.pdf.

I would design large scale BBS as a multiple baseline design across groups, meaning I would implement BBS over time but stagger the implementation across a timeline so no two groups start at the same time, beginning of course with the pilot site (see number 1 above).  In short, multiple baseline designs help keep the implementation organized, focused on the before and after results of BBS, and can support whether or not BBS is working across sites versus some other initiative or effect on performance.

4 - STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES– HAVE THEM, BUT BEWARE

When going full scale, I recommend setting up a set of standards, the minimum expectations and how people will be held accountable. Once the standards are set, create the procedures which will support the standards and also allow for flexibility or variations you are ok with. In my experience, BBS is best implemented when having some "have-to's” (the standards) and "want-to's" (the variations) to allow people to buy-in.  Flexibility in the implementation of BBS can take many forms.  Frequency of observations, which behaviors to observe for, who is involved, and the risks to focus on may be unique from one facility to another.  

5 – MANAGEMENT TEAM MEETINGS - HAVE THEM FROM DAY 1

Looking at data and the implementation progress is critical and having managers reviewing the data and progress is key. Don’t wait, start from day 1, weekly no less than bi-weekly meetings, with a once a month formal review and recognition of progress planned.  The team should review data, trends, feedback from participating sites, feedback from the leaders implementing BBS, and lessons learned in regards to the standards and procedures – what is working, not working, and needs fixing. 

I hope you found these tips useful in your journey to making a positive difference in the lives of people in the workplace.