Rule of thumb: Any quantity goal without a quality requirement will encourage “pencil whipping”. This is especially true of safety audits and observations. Organizations that require everyone to do two observations per month or two audits per week are misstating what they truly want. Quantity is ineffective without quality. There are thousands of studies that support the idea that a certain quantity of contact or assessment is necessary for improvements. But they all go out the window if the numbers are filled with fake, or otherwise poor-quality, components.
What drives change is the right number of quality contacts. Going through the motions and getting the numbers just to check off a box is not what organizations really want. So why do they set these goals, omitting the quality requirements? Largely because the quantity is easily and discretely measured while the quality is more complicated and subjective. It is easier to create accountability around numbers than quality, but doing so can completely compromise the effort. State both quantity and quality requirements in all goals and do your best to hold workers accountable for both.
-Terry L. Mathis
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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS three consecutive times. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence (2013, WILEY).