Review of EI ‘Delivering safety culture change using the Hearts and Minds toolkit’ training course

The EI piloted a 3-day Delivering safety culture change using the Hearts and Minds toolkit training course in September.  This 3-day course was designed to take attendees on a ‘journey’ of the process by which a safety culture improvement programme may be implemented, beginning with discovering what safety culture is all about, assessing the company’s safety culture and gaining management support, and then building a plan and implementing it (using the Hearts and Minds tools).

Attendees were assessed on two fronts:

  • their efforts to run an exercise from either Managing Rule Breaking or Improving Supervision Hearts and Minds tools, and
  • the development of a plan to implement a culture programme in their own company.

But the assessment was not for its own sake – when the course was devised it was intended that participants could leave with a practical plan for moving forward with their culture programmes, learning from two prominent safety culture specialists, Prof. Dianne Parker and Dr. Mathew Lawrie, who helped develop the Hearts and Minds toolkit and developed and delivered the 3-day course.  How will their plans work out?  Only time will tell.

Was the training course a success?  Absolutely!  At the beginning of the course participants were asked to list what they hoped to get out of the course, what they would consider a success (i.e. what they needed to learn in order to successfully implement a culture programme) and what particular issues they faced in their organisations:

  • Participants hoped for a plan to roll out a programme; they wanted to know how to create drive for improvement, how to sustain a programme and how to use the Hearts and Minds tools; they wanted to grasp the fundamentals of Hearts and Minds and they wanted to network with other Hearts and Minds users.
  • Participants would consider success as being able to create ambassadors for managing culture; becoming equipped to implement a culture programme; to move from compliance to conformity; to gain buy-in from senior management.
  • Issues faced in their organisations included: leaders not leading the safety culture; people not having the courage to intervene in improving behaviour; many safety programmes with little follow-through; motivating non-production departments to get involved in safety; getting management buy-in; and involving contractors in a culture change programme.

The course met the majority of participants’ hopes, and more than touched upon many of the more specific issues people had (such as contractor involvement)  – in a large part due to the experiences of the trainers themselves, and because, in listing what participants wanted to get out of the course, they were able to shape the discussions that took place.

Did it cover everything?  Of course not – and we learned some important lessons about the course and the Hearts and Minds tools.  For example, whilst fairly general, the tools do have a personal safety bias, making their application to long-term hazard management (such as in the design of a nuclear facility) a challenge.  Participants were also required to role-play or run workshop exercises, which some people found more difficult than others.

But in some cases participants’ expectations were completely blown away, as they realised everything they thought they knew about safety culture improvement was wrong.  (You could almost hear the paradigm shifts happening in their minds.)

One powerful memory involves a participant working in the Middle East.  After day 1 he said “If I go back to my bosses and say ‘we should run a culture programme’, they won’t accept it and I’ll likely get the sack”.  By day 3 he was confident that he had developed a plan to get senior management buy-in (“I’ll make it out that it was their idea”).

The next Delivering safety culture change using the Hearts and Minds toolkit course is schedule to run 4-6 February 2013.  Contact Will Sadler wsadler@energyinst.org for more information.

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