Don't Just Focus on Inputs and Outputs for Safety Performance Improvement

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Not getting 100% success rate for performance improvement?

If like me, you set objectives, goals or targets but don’t always get a 100% success rate for performance improvement…there could be a good reason for that.

Apart from Key Performance Indicators or Leading and Lagging Indicators playing a key role, in this short video, I would like to share with you my lessons learnt and hopefully they might help you fine tune your approach so that you can achieve your aspirations.

The title of this video/ article is:

Don’t Just Focus on Inputs and Outputs”….and there’s a reason for that.

Having read a number of books on behaviours (and interviews with the behaviour based safety pioneer Prof. Scott Geller), process optimisation and various other aspects, there is a “Black Box” that we need to explore.

So, let’s first start with “Output” and discuss that in context to “Input” for personal, work-related or organisational outputs…it doesn’t really matter.

For example, personal outputs might be something along the lines of “I want to”:

  • Get fit;
  • Lose some weight; or
  • Run a marathon.

Let’s start by looking at relative Inputs and they might be something along the lines of:

  • I want to lose weight so I’m going to start eating less; or
  • I want to get fit and I am going to start doing more exercise

We have these as my Inputs to help achieve our Output (or Objectives).

From a workplace perspective, it’s very similar for safety.

You might have some specific Outputs such as:

In the above cases, we heavily focus on the Input to achieve the desired Output.

But, what was the original intent?

A number of times, I have found where I failed it was with regard to the “intent” and this tended to happen in between the Input and Output.  I didn’t look closely into the “Black Box” and that’s what let me down.

So, what is this “Black Box?”

Think of the Black Box as a Process or a System. Something that is the Mechanics or the “GUTS” of what makes things happen.

In the above example where it was  a personal aspiration, it was about wanting to get fit.

We know what the Output is and we know what the Input has to be. But, did we know what was in the “Black Box” i.e., have we got some sort of a plan or strategy?

Perhaps it might be a simple strategy and related to doing some cardio or strength training.

That is basically the Mechanics (or Guts) of how we are going to get to our desired objective.

In a similar context, if you look within industry (or your organisation) and you’re thinking:

  • I’d like to really improve my safety performance…what am I going to do?
  • I want to bring my Lost Time Incident Rate down…how am I going to do that?

The Inputs might be to increase delivery of training or other variables…in effect layers and layers within that Black Box.

However, what’s the intent?

If it was about “safety performance improvement”, you might find that you may not have a system in place to achieve that main objective. The training being provided might not be adequate enough….?

It’s important to not to just focus on Inputs and Outputs, which is unfortunately very easily done. We should also  on the intent and the Mechanics.

Put simply, what’s happening inside the Black Box.

In Conclusion

In a nutshell, and I don’t want to simplify it too much, if you focus just on the Input for the Output…you’ll get back to a point where nothing’s really changed relative to the intent (i.e., what was the bigger picture).

For a more successful approach, it’s time to look at the Black Box.

The Process, System, Mechanics or the “GUTS”.

Knowing what’s happening inside the Black Box will help you to fine-tune and then you can keep fine-tuning until you get that desired Objectives and Output.

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