When we started our business, we debated how we could take common business processes like safety, training and competency, quality, or even running the entire business and make them simple to understand for everyone.
We started with the safety process, and after 30+ years of building and managing safety programs, I was humbled to learn that my explanation of a safety program to my business partner was not clear. She stated that “if I don’t get it, nobody else will.”So, the several-day exercise began with sticky notes all over the wall. Eventually, common patterns emerged that were grouped and refined into 4 Steps and 4 Skill areas – 4 easy things people could do and 4 skill areas that would help people do these 4 things well.
A Process for Any Aspect of the Business
Once we laid out the 4 STEPS/4 SKILLS™ process for safety, we noticed we could do the same for Training and Competency with some slight adjustments. We continued to tune the terms ever so slightly, and we had a model for many functions, including the entire business. The significant benefit was having a common approach with similar steps and skillsets no matter what you were tackling in the business.
The Value of Simplicity
People can be intimidated when we start talking about “Programs” and “Systems.” Functions like Training and Safety can appear complicated and drive a perception that you need to be a specially trained person to understand them fully. Early in the introduction of the 4 STEPS/4 SKILLS™ Safety Model, a truck driver commented, “Is that all I have to do? I can do that. I just never really understood what people wanted from me before!” It takes more work upfront to simplify processes, but it is well worth the effort.
An Integrated Approach is Key
The other perception often caused by complicated systems and processes is that a particular function like training, quality or safety is somehow different from how the rest runs. To help break down this barrier, we made sure the 4 STEPS/4 SKILLS™ process could be easily adapted to any aspect of the business, assisting people in understanding that no matter what role and functions they must fulfill, the underlying process and skill sets are very similar. Whether you leverage our process or develop your own, having an integrated approach to running the business will pay huge dividends to employees and leaders who can see how the pieces of the business fit together.
Make it Sustainable
Regardless of the process you use, implement ongoing practices to help employees and leaders see and understand how the underlying processes are similar for various aspects of the business. Use opportunities in meetings, workshops, newsletters, or other types of communication to:
• Take ownership – when discussing a function such as safety or training outside your primary area of expertise, do not simply differ to another group for insight. Use the similarities in the underlying processes to ask good questions and build your understanding.
• Draw comparisons between similar initiatives – building supervisor skills for some new accounting practices to understand financial risks might be identical to building skills to understand some safety risks when supervisors spend time at field operation sites. Building a new marketing strategy might start with assessing the current perception about the organization with clients while creating a new training program would begin with evaluating the target audience’s current level of understanding. Talking about the similarities in the underlying processes for different business functions can help build the fundamental skills needed to solve any business problem.
• Gather examples – ask people for examples of where they see the similarities and how they have applied common skills and approaches to different aspects of the business. Real-life stories are a powerful way to reinforce learning.
When we peel back some of the layers of complexity, all parts of the business use a similar process and skillsets to be effective.
Understanding these similarities helps remove barriers to understanding the different functions within a business and leads to a more collaborative and effective organization. Check out our 4 STEPS/4 SKILLS™ training if you want to learn more, or give us a call at 403-650-0413.