Catching Excellence

Picture a perfect day in your mind. When you lay down at night, what do you see that causes you to say, “This was an excellent day”?

Many would include experiences with their family and friends, activities that are rewarding in places that create cherished memories. In a future blog I may share those thoughts from a personal perspective.

For now, we will focus on our day at work. My vision for excellence: Every employee, every day is home healthy and safe, proud of our workmanship, having learned something to be better tomorrow, confidently holding our heads high when we look in the mirror.

Excellence is our expectation. We generally think we are excellent, and improving each year. In many of the ways we measure excellence, that is true. But in our safety performance, we are not excellent today.

This past Spring outage season, for every 100 craft we employed, 10 went home with an injury, 2 had a significant injury.

WHY? It is not for lack effort. We have more reporting than ever, more STOP moments, hazard hunts, good catches, etc. We review weekly the safety events, we develop campaigns for certain risks (for example, hand safety and safe lifting and rigging practices), we create heat maps to chart events and concerns for future focus. Still, our effort has not produced excellent performance. WHY?

We all have theories. I am concerned that our theories, what our “guts” tell us, is off. Thus, in addition to discussions with our leaders, including all our Superintendents, we are looking at all events and numerous data points to understand the WHY. Our “guts”, or our “I think” must be influenced by the reality of events and data.

My concerns right now, based on our current review of the events and data:

  1. Human Error: Industry data suggests 80-90% of events result from human error. Individual personal accountability for daily discipline in executing specific safe behaviors is not consistent. Individuals are making poor decisions. We see that when someone steps on a pipe or texts while driving.

  2. Corporate Error: Industry data also suggests that 70% of human error is influenced by something in the corporate environment. My concern, based on early reviews of audits, is that we have become accustomed to that reality and have accepted standards that are less than excellent. We see good and call it great. Our vision needs improvement.

This summer we refocus on setting a standard of excellence, the “Pinnacle”. What does excellence look like? We need your help to define it.

  1. What specific daily actions do we expect that drive safety (and quality and integrity)?

  2. What “new glasses” do we need to see risks more clearly.
    a. What audits, evaluations, messaging, and metrics strategies drive improved safe behaviors?
    b. What leadership development strategy, for both the field and corporate, do we need to implement to drive improved safe behaviors?

  3. What else can we do to ensure our craft see risks and live these expectations daily?

One of my favorite quotes is from the great ball coach, Vince Lombardi. “We are going to relentlessly chase perfection ... because in the process we will catch excellence.”

I have confidence we will catch excellence. WHY? Because of YOU. We have the desire, we have the passion, we have the work ethic. Thus, this summer we will:

  1. Define perfection – the “Pinnacle”.

  2. Paint the picture for daily behaviors that lead to excellence.

  3. Invest in our leadership to develop the right skills to drive this standard.

  4. Drive this standard to our craft.

And we will enter the Fall ready to catch excellence.

- APM President, Jake Locklear