Everyone Is a Safety Officer

“It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Failure” is a strange concept, isn’t it?
We learn from failure. We try to avoid failure.
I believe in innovation and pushing creativity. I often preach “risk-taking” and a more “entrepreneurial approach” to public agency business processes. But, the flip side to that is risk understanding, mitigation and management.   
As leaders, part of our job is to reduce the incidence of failures in our team or organization. 
Think about this. You’re working with a firm or organization with hundreds (or thousands) of people. What are the chances that someone (right now) is royally screwing up?
The likelihood could be 100%
And here’s the question. As leaders, are we overlooking an easy way to reduce failures in our team or organization?
Recently, I interviewed Vince Campisi. Vince is the expert leading the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Committee On Practices To Reduce Failures. I really encourage you to listen to the full episode.
To say this was an eye-opening conversation would be an understatement. One thing Vince said struck me.
He said that if engineers simply held the safety of citizens above all else, there would be far fewer structural failures. Yes, Vince said some structural designs don’t hold safety above all else.

One surprising example he gave was the Twin Towers in New York City (the towers that fell on 9/11). He explained there were structural red flags from when the buildings first opened. On windy days, the elevators would get stuck, and pipes creaked in the men’s room.
Today, skyscrapers are built with even lower slenderness ratioswhich could be a recipe for disaster.

I know, I know…budgets, politics and stakeholders, oh my! Engineers don’t get the last say, right? Another reason engineers not only need to be good technically but persuasive storytellers too. They must know how to help leaders understand risk and how it should weigh into their decision-making. 
Let me ask you this, have you lost sight of a significant “north star” for your business or team? Would refocusing on your north star reduce the amount of failure?
If you are willing, share it with me.

BJ Kraemer, President