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Safety Results – The Importance of Project Management

Photo by geralt from Pixabay

Is your safety project broken? Imagine this scenario, you are assigned as team leader of a high visibility project. You know it’s a great opportunity to flex your project management muscles. You draft a well thought out project charter and schedule your first team meeting. All seems to be going well until the first project milestone is missed. You believe you can make up the time until key team members miss meetings. You consider reporting your concerns to your boss, but that would make you look like a poor leader. This scenario is probably not hard to imagine and for many of us has been a reality at some point in our career.

According to Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling in their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, your failure to execute is not a people problem. The real enemy of execution is the “whirlwind”, otherwise know as your day job. According to the authors, “Your day job often dictates your priorities thus your actions.” It’s the fires that must be put out. For safety professionals it’s the incident that needs to be investigated, the audit that needs to be conducted, the metrics report that needs to be completed and the annual training that is due.

I followed the 4 Disciplines of Execution while leading a team recently. Not only did we exceed expectations, the team members were proud of their accomplishments and primed to take on the next challenging project.

Follow these 4 disciplines to run a successful team project:

  1. Focus on a wildly important goal (WIG). Focus on less, so you can do more. Instead of giving minimal effort to several objectives, identify one or two that will move the needle. According to the authors, in determining your WIG, don’t ask “what’s most important?” rather ask “If performance in every other area of my operation remained the same, what is the one area where change would have the biggest impact?” Our team scoured the injury database and determined that slip and falls accounted for 16% of our total injuries. Reducing these injuries would have a positive impact on overall injuries.

  2. Act on lead measures. Good lead measures have two (2) characteristics in common; they are predictive of achieving the goal and can be influenced by team members. We selected the number of quality observations conducted as our lead measure. Managing lead measures helps us predict the results.

  3. Keep a compelling scorecard. Team members need to know the score and will act differently when the score is kept and reported. Keeping score drives engagement. We needed feedback from front line supervisors, specifically why wasn’t the existing observation process being used and what would encourage it’s use. Our initial scorecard tracked the number of supervisors each team member interviewed each day. Results were used to determine what needed to be accomplished to increase the number of quality observations.

  4. Create a cadence of accountability. A rhythm of regular meetings, at least once per week and lasting no more than 30 minutes. During the meeting team members hold each other accountable for completing tasks and producing results. We conducted a weekly meeting often ending within 20 minutes. Roles and objectives were clarified making excessively long calls unnecessary.

People want to be a part of a winning team and want to contribute in a meaningful way to that success.The high level of success became the blueprint for future projects and a great source of pride. As a safety professional and leader, leveraging these four disciplines are key to enhancing our project management skills.

Patrick J. Karol is a Safety Consultant and Speaker. He can be reached at

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