Safety and Employee Involvement - Hasmate
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Safety and Employee Involvement

Safety and Employee Involvement

We trained hard but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.
Gaius Petronius Arbiter 210BC

So what has changed? Do these words strike a chord to managers who have been around for the past 30-40 years?

Over this time there have been a myriad of management fads and fashions, such as the following, that when introduced have been grasped by businesses as a saviour of the business and often seen as the best thing since sliced bread.

  • Time and motion studies
  • The Baldridge awards
  • Team and group dynamics
  • Management by objectives
  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • The seven tools of TQC
  • TWI for effective management
  • The Theory of Constraints
  • Joseph Juran
  • Action centred leadership
  • Six Sigma
  • ISO9001 Quality management
  • Crosby and Quality management
  • Kamban
  • Tom Peters
  • Re-engineering
  • The Toyota way
  • The Deming Way
  • Kaizen
  • Just in time (JIT) management
  • Peter Drucker (1909-2005)
  • LEAN Management
  • The Nissan way

The reality is that like sliced bread, the fads and fashions of business lose flavour. They go stale in a very short space of time leaving frustration and casualities – these usually being the lower level managers and employees who in many cases have seen and heard it all before.

Over the past 30 years I have seen many of the above are philosophies, theories and systems that have been developed by (in some instances) experienced experts or by self-proclaimed gurus to assist businesses for quality improvement.

Don’t get me wrong, several of the systems are still working effectively and will continue to work.  Why?  Because there is a commitment by the owners of the business to make it work.

In my experience, the demise of many of the above is usually caused by the oversell to gullible businesses looking for a quick fix by so-called “experts” and the hype made by these expensive gurus. In many cases, they suffer from what is known as the “Jesus Syndrome” – that is, because they come from Auckland, Wellington, Australia or elsewhere, they must be able to walk on water. The hype and attention it gets is for about 9-12months and then comes the funeral service.

All this may sound very cynical, but the reality is, this is what happens. As someone once said,”the only thing that you learn from history is that we learn little from history” – we keep on making the same mistakes.

Often the answers can be found within the employees of a business but the management never bothered to ask for their opinion. Does this sound familiar?
Another factor for the demise of the fads, is that the focus of any responsible business owner, manager or accountants is to make profit, and why not? It’s not a dirty word.

The issue is that many of these management fads do not:

  • Provide a quick fix for the business;
  • Provide quality improvements overnight; and/or
  • Produce the instant return on investment for the dollars spent to put the “sliced bread” in place.

Consequently, they die a quick death.

The casualties

A casualty factor that is too often overlooked is the impact this passing has on employees.

This usually results in the employees (who usually want to make it happen) to become disheartened, cynical and distrustful of the introduction of any future management systems and the hype that goes with it.

A consequence is that they start to suffer from what I call the LOHICA syndrome (look out, here it comes again!) when something new or better than sliced bread is introduced later.

As a convert of ISO 9001, I know it can and does work.

Add to this mix the teachings of Edward Deming and Joseph M Juan. These two management heroes were the shining stars of the 60 – 80’s promoting quality improvement and teaching quality improvement management to the Japanese after WWII.  They paved the way for many of the quality improvement ideas.

Add to this the words of wisdom of Peter Drucker and you then start to get a real mix of positive and proven management principles and improvement ideas for a business.

The team concept

A common denominator of many of these business ideals is that of the involvement of employees and the concept of team development to bring about change, but does this always work? If not, why not?

In the 1987 NZ publication “the K Theory”, the writers compared business to NZ as a nation of champion sports teams successfully competing on the world stage. A challenge from this book was, why is it that we produce world champions on the sport field, yet we can’t get business owners to engender the same motivation and team enthusiasm into their businesses to develop the same winning culture and ethos to make their businesses champions?

So, what is the answer? Simply, knowledge understanding commitment, honesty and the involvement of employees.

Management should never forget the old Chinese proverb, “A fish never rots from the tail”

A possible remedy

It’s all very well to have ra ra and hype sessions with the employees, proclamations of excellence and develop value and mission statements with outlandish proclamations of the future. What must happen first is that there must be training, an understanding and real commitment by the most senior level of management about the management concept and the potential and real benefits for the business, for them and the employees.

The process must involve all the employees at all levels as they will be the recipients of the proposed change. Mushroom management must not be allowed to flourish.

The intention to change should be written into the company’s strategic planning, budgets allocated and committed to, responsibilities delegated and monitored, reviewed and followed by celebrations to make the process live and work for the expected rewards.

Measuring the effectiveness of teams

If teams are to work, the management must first identify if they do in fact have existing teams and to establish by bench marking to identify if they are effective and responsive. This is a process that should never be undertaken by the management or the HR department to avoid any bias or non-participation from distrust by the employees. Is this another LOHICA?

In this electronic age, there are several proven and qualified programmes on the market and one I do recommend is a NZ based online product known as ASK YOUR TEAM. For more information, contact or go to for more information.

So, do teams work, they sure do. No one person can make a business function effectively, no one manager can afford to be an island and no one manager has a mortgage on knowledge.

The power of a well-oiled, fit, trained and motivated team cannot be underestimated. The key is to measure how well they are working to achieve the goals and objectives of the business, that is, if they know of and understand the goals?