Safety is not the absence of harm – there is no point in continuing down that road

Simon Marshall

A safe organisation is not an organisation that has reduced the harm it does to people.

Safety isn’t the absence of anything, it isn’t the absence of physical harm, or even emotional, mental or spiritual harm. We don’t believe that safety is the absence of anything.

In Safety, to find enduring solutions, we need to spend less time and energy trying to avoid the current situation we find ourselves in, working harder and harder to eliminate the bad things that cause us so much pain. We need to look outside of the normal models and thinking that are in fact contributing to and indeed may be making the results we are getting inevitable. We need to start from a place that is outside the current thinking and models, the current paradigm if you like.

What we believe is that safety is the presence of all the things that are good about the organisation and the world. We believe that safety is about bringing people alive, and noticing where that happens and creating from that space. We also believe that people are the source of creating safety, as an infinite source of inspiration and solutions – people are not the problem or something that needs to be managed.

It will help us to look for places where people are brought alive, where they are connected to something bigger than themselves and their current work, and when they are brought alive the most, this is where they are most connected to their purpose, their Why – their cause or belief…because this is the starting point for redefining what we mean by ‘Safety’ or a ‘Safe’ company. And then we need to create these organisations. We call them Why-Based Organisations.

Indeed, treating Safety as something separate from everything else that we do, is often another part of the current paradigm that is deep in our psychology. What we all want is to do work that matters and do it productively – productive and safe work – and of course safe work is productive work!

We can all start by looking at what we measure in ‘Safety’. Are the indicators we use predominantly measures of the absence of harm, e.g. number of incidents/days since last LTI etc. or are they the presence of what we want, e.g. trust, openness, collaboration, communication…? These may appear to us to be harder to measure, but is that response just part of us slipping back to the current paradigm? We know an organisation that (amongst many other things) looks at the divorce rate amongst all its members. Why, well a big part of break downs in relationships are caused by people not speaking to each other. When you’re doing work that matters, feeling safe and contributing to others, when you go home you talk about it!

Let’s cause a revolution in the world of safety, let’s notice where things go well, learn from them, reinforce them and create the sort of organisations where people thrive.

If you are interested in creating this world, a world where safety is not defined by the absence of anything, but is defined by people thriving, doing their lives’ work and choosing to lead themselves and those around them, please join us.

WhyNot transform the nature of work?

Thanks for reading, if you want to read more you might be interested in…

Creating a wave of Change

The Future of Safety is Why-Based

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About
Simon is the author of Why-Based Organisational Development and WhyNot’s Leadership Curriculum, and has extensive experience in leadership development, cultural and organisational change and executive coaching.

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