September 09, 2014
"There is a great sense of fulfillment for the leadership when they realize they are influencing the culture (rather than at the influence of it) and they believe the results they desire are achievable. For many organizations, the relationship to their facilities’ turnarounds are, 'let’s just get through this and try not to get anyone hurt.' Now turnarounds can be a positive experience for the site that has a positive influence on the site culture."
I spoke with JMJ senior consultant Steve Pianalto about his work with creating strong safety cultures on plant turnarounds. In this interview, Steve discusses the three biggest challenges he sees to creating a strong turnaround safety culture, the ways to address these challenges, and the results he has seen by implementing the Incident and Injury-Free™ (IIF™) safety approach well before the turnaround has begun.
JWF: What are the unique challenges posed by bringing a culture of safety to a turnaround, as opposed to a project or standing organization environment?
SP: One of the primary differences with a turnaround compared to project work or organizational work is that even though there is a long planning season prior to the turnaround, the actual turnaround only occurs over a period of usually 60 to 90 days. With that said, there are three distinct challenges that are typical with turnarounds.
The first is the fact that you have an influx of 1,000-plus people coming on to a site that have no relationship to the site, no relationship to the people on site, no relationship to the leadership and no relationship to the actual safety culture that exists on site. So rather than the site influencing the culture of the turnaround, the turnaround tends to create its own culture and typically influences and changes the site culture.
The contractors working on the turnaround are bringing their own individual perceptions of their past experience onto the site. Many times theirs has not been a positive experience. So you have to create a new possibility in a period of three to four weeks immediately prior to the start of the turnaround when everybody is arriving on site.
There is intense work up front before the turnaround starts to create those personal relationships, relationship to Incident and Injury-Free™ (IIF™) safety, and relationship to the possibility that this can be accomplished without anyone getting hurt.
The second challenge involves the new contractor companies arriving on the site and the individual organizational culture they bring with them. Even with an existing strong leadership team present on the site, the influx of new leadership from the turnaround contractors creates an immediate challenge for site leadership to enroll the new contractor leadership into the work of IIF safety.
The third challenge is getting the entire team aligned on the culture that you are trying to create. You only have a short period prior to the turnaround to accomplish this. This alignment work must be infused into the IIF work in order to sustain IIF safety throughout the turnaround.
JWF: How do you address these challenges? If someone were bringing JMJ in to a turnaround, what could they expect the approach would be to address those challenges?
SP: I think there are probably three critical pieces of work we have success with.
JWF: What does the approach look like through the course of the turnaround itself?
SP: Over the course of the turnaround, there is a very high level of activity. Because of the trust built through the work with supervisors, operations and maintenance personnel, you have decisions being made at the lowest level possible rather than every decision needing to be elevated through each organization. You also have contractors working side-by-side and in partnership for the success of the whole, rather than working against each other. As a result, we have increased productivity and quality as the workforce takes ownership for the success of the whole. We have much better working relationships in the field, and critical safety conversations (including ‘stopping work’) being made at the supervisor level with the confidence that they have leadership’s support.
JMJ suggested that perhaps there was a bigger opportunity here. Rather than just reinforcing the rules, what might provide a better overall outcome?
One of the critical roles of leadership during the turnaround is being visible out in the field. There is a considerable effort to get leadership away from their desks and out in the field, engaging in IIF conversations. These conversations are inquiries, listening tours and opportunities to ensure that leadership is living up to their own set of expectations.
JWF: What kind of results have you seen stem from this kind of work?
SP: We've been involved with four major turnarounds in the last couple of years that I’ve been a part of and every single one of those has had exceptional results. The last turnaround that we did had over 2,000 employees on it and experienced zero recordable injuries for the entire turnaround (a first ever for the site). A prior turnaround had one minor bump on the face requiring medical attention and was injury free for the remainder of the turnaround (also the best turnaround performance in the history of the site). Very similar results were recorded on the others.
When you walk out into a turnaround where IIF safety is completely engaged at every level of the organization, spirits are high, morale is high and, even though sometimes the conditions may be tough and the working hours are long, the employees get a sense of real care and concern from the leadership. Feedback on surveys of people exiting past turnarounds revealed that this feeling of ownership and engagement is the most appreciated part of their experience. Comments will include, “best turnaround I've ever worked on, I actually believed we could do this” and “enjoyed the relationships that were built between the contractors”, and “felt like we were really appreciated.”
On these turnarounds, contractors are working side by side, understanding that being successful means every contractor must be successful, not just the one they work for directly.
There is also a great sense of fulfillment for the leadership when they realize they are influencing the culture (rather than at the influence of it) and they believe the results they desire are achievable. For many organizations, the relationship to their facilities’ turnarounds are, “let’s just get through this and try not to get anyone hurt.” Now turnarounds can be a positive experience for the site that has a positive influence on the site culture.