Case Study: BBS (Behavior-Based Safety) 2.0
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
We have worked with numerous organizations over the years to re-create or re-energize their behavior-based safety (BBS) programs. Several years ago, a leading manufacturing company asked us to revamp their program. Despite early success, their process had devolved into a “pencil whipping” exercise with an overly long checklist that people didn’t want to fill out. There was also an absence of effective safety feedback following observations and insufficient follow-up with identified concerns (“black hole”). This is typical of most clients reaching out to us to improve their BBS program.
We started fresh by discarding the lengthy behavioral checklist and co-designing a new observation card. This card was simplified to include several open-ended questions asking about safety strengths, concerns, and recommendations from the field level. Substantial room for comments was provided on the card to document employee feedback.
Once the new card and guidelines for use were developed, a short leadership workshop was developed and delivered to field leaders. This training explained the “why” behind the new effort, the importance of addressing safety attitudes and behaviors, and improving communication skills to deliver effective safety feedback. An emphasis was also placed on closing the loop with employee feedback from the observations.
The training sessions were highly interactive and successful. Although no quotas were established, the number of observations conducted was extremely high and have stayed at these levels (with some fluctuations) over the years. More importantly, the quality of comments have been exceptional leading to numerous process and system improvements. Ongoing executive coaching has helped ensure the process stays evergreen.
The success of their BBS 2.0 process is primarily due to steering team members taking creative, active steps to keep the program flourishing and visible. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Messaging to field employees on the importance of leadership observations
- Setting up 1:1s for us to speak directly with executives and managers to support BBS 2.0
- Providing numerous drop boxes to conveniently drop off completed cards
- Creating an electronic version of the card to be completed on cell phones
- Putting BBS 2.0 messaging on streaming TV screens in the facility
- Providing small tokens of appreciation for high-quality observations and conversations
- Including BBS 2.0 success stories during dedicated safety days
- Creating fun and creative competitions between groups for program participation
- Establishing BBS 2.0 as an ongoing topic in leadership meetings with accountability checks for program support
- Creating expectations for leaders to address identified concerns in a timely manner
- Advertising improvements based on employee feedback
The result of these efforts include improved safety leadership, communication, information sharing, and process improvements. For years, people have been highly engaged in the process from executives to field employees. This is a tribute to simplifying the process, providing interactive leadership training, and the creative and active steps taken by the steering team to be successful. It’s a far cry from the bureaucratic, paperwork exercise they had before BBS 2.0.
At Propulo, we help leaders revamp their BBS programs to focus on conversations over cards and people over paper. We can help you too!!