3 Strategies To Shift The Focus Of Management Team To Leading Indicators

Sometimes, your management team can be obsessed with lagging indicators instead of focusing on a more important parameter, leading indicators.

So, if you’re trying to shift management focus in your workplace, below are three strategies that you can use. Let’s get into it!

Don’t Share Lagging Indicators Unless Asked

If you don’t want the management team to pay attention to lagging indicators then stop sharing them. Simple as that. And remember that you are the keeper of your data, unless you share them, they’ll stop paying attention to lagging indicators.

So, stop sharing them and focus on presenting important things during meetings and reports. Of course, if they asked for it you then should go ahead and give them the data. Ideally, lagging indicators should only be shared every 6 to 4 months because that is when you’ll have data that you can work on and put a program against.

Don’t Post Your Lagging Indicators

Posting your lagging indicators is like saying “hey guys, here’s all of our failures”. And this does not promote the safety culture that you want inside the facilities.

Instead, focusing on posting leading indicators will enable workers in the facility to be aware of relevant data and what needs to be improved such as statistics on wearing PPE (personal protective equipment). This awareness will enable

Train Your Management Team to Focus on Leading Indicators

Training your management team will make them understand why it’s more important to focus on leading indicators instead of being obsessed with lagging indicators.

Below are some topics that you can talk to them about:

  • Definition of near misses – make them understand why near misses are important indicators of workplace safety
  • Heinrich’s triangle – make them understand how the number of near misses correlates to the possibility of experiencing severe injuries and property damages

Take Action

Shifting management focus to leading indicators may feel wrong at times but it’s the right thing to do. So, continue to talk to and influence them about the importance of it. And over time as you apply these strategies, management will start to shift their focus and you’ll see improvements will happen.

But, if you need more help regarding leading and lagging indicators, check out the Safety Management Academy.

How To Change Your Team's Focus To Leading Indicators

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] You are a professional and you know that you should be focusing on leading indicators, but your management team won't stop talking about injury and claim numbers. They just don't get it. But there are steps that you can take to start shifting their focus. So remember my safety friend, you are an influencer, so let's influence them to pay attention to leading indicator.

Let's get to it.

Hey, there, safety friends. Welcome to the safety geek podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up, over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the safety geek, you will learn how to manage an effective [00:01:00] safety program that increases your management support and employee engagement all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place, let's get to it.

Hello! Hello! Hello, and welcome today, we are talking about, how to get your management team to focus mainly on leading indicators and get them away from those lagging indicators. And today's question actually comes from Marina. She asked if I could talk more about lagging indicators versus leading indicators, like the percentage of completion of actions after accidents and follow up after near misses.

And that. Her question was a little messy, I guess would be a good word for me to say. So I'm not really sure if I'm going to be covering it exactly. [00:02:00] Like you asked marina, but this is an amazing topic to talk about. So before we get started, if you want to submit a topic for me to discuss on the podcast, make sure that you submit it to the support team by emailing me at support at the safety geek that com and we will add it to the list and we will talk about it on the podcast.

Just like we are Marina's question. All right. So before we get started, we have to define a couple of things. We have to kind of give everybody a foundation of this conversation. So the very first one is a leading indicator. So a leading indicator is something that you pay attention to because it will likely result in something bad happening.

I give you keep lifting boxes without bending your knees and using your back to lift, right? Eventually you're gonna strain your back. So the fact that they are not lifting properly is a leading [00:03:00] indicator. A lagging indicator are things that already happened. It's the fact that they did strain their back it's that accident where they strain their back, or it is any accident that happens or anything would property damage or anything you can put a claim on onto you can even consider near misses lagging indicators as well.

They're kind of like in a gray area of leading and lagging indicators. So the way that I like to define a near miss. So let's talk about those for a second. So I found this thing several years ago that I just love this definition of a near miss, is that a near miss is the cause of unsafe acts and unsafe conditions, right?

So you have unsafe acts, which are things that people do, its behaviors, you have unsafe conditions, which is the environment and how we set people up, or don't set people up for success. And then you have a near miss, which those unsafe acts and conditions could cause an accident, but maybe they didn't, maybe it was close to one.

And then you have [00:04:00] an accident, which is where there was either injury or property damage or something like that. So I believe that unsafe acts and unsafe conditions are also near misses just because they're not causing one does not mean that it's not something that should be invested in. And I love talking about this when I'm actually teaching.

So I used to teach safety management academy in a live version that I called safety boot camp. And I would go about every two months to a different location. And I would teach that class in a live setting. So you're going into a conference room in a business, and always there were electric cords going everywhere because the room was not created in a manner that allowed for computers, every table to be plugged.

Let alone the presentation table, right? So I'm trying to teach about near misses and literally I'm having to step over a near miss constantly. So I believe that hazards are also near misses, but we can do a [00:05:00] whole another discussion on that. That's actually part of safety management academy is teaching about near misses as well.

So we're not going to get into that, but near misses could be either a leading or a lagging indicator. Depending upon how you look at them, but they're definitely something you need to pay attention to. I would put them in the leading indicator box just because the accident didn't happen. And the reason why all of this is important is that there is a belief or a theory out there.

And I definitely believe it that the more leading indicators that you have, like problems within your leading indicators, a greater number of near misses. You are eventually going to end up with an accident or a severe accident or a fatality. And there is a thing called the safety pyramid. It's Heinrich safety pyramid.

And I know every time I bring this up, I get a lot of grief about it because Heinrich safety pyramid was created many, many years ago, and there are some beliefs that it's [00:06:00] not true, right. Or that it doesn't really correlate in the workplace today. I say Heinrich's pyramid. Definitely still correlate.

Maybe the numbers are wrong or maybe you can look at it differently, but overall, if you don't take care of the little minor things that the hazards, the near misses and all of that, you are eventually going to have a severe accident. But yes, it is also true that you can have all your ducks in a row and be perfect and still have a fatality.

That is definitely true. I've seen it, but the overall theory of Heinrich's pyramid does pan out. And in fact, I've actually gone into facility. That if all we had to do was get rid of what I like to call their broken windows. So go back to my broken windows theory episode. When you start taking care of the broken windows, all the little minor stuff, you actually reduce your accidents.

But here we go. So I'm kind of going off on a tangent and not really sticking to Marina's question, but the [00:07:00] point is, is that to make the biggest difference in your injury numbers, you don't need to be paying attention to accidents and claims you need to be paying attention to unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.

Okay. So that is our foundation for this episode, I got there in a roundabout way. So anyway, so the problem is, is that most management teams don't understand this concept, that they are constantly looking at the claims numbers and the number of injuries that they're happening. But the point is is that by the time an accident happens, it's done it's over.

You can't really like the money you spent. We should be being more proactive and stopping the accidents from happening in the first place. No, we don't want to ignore the accidents cause there's lots of good information and learning that we can get from them, but most of our time should be spent paying attention to leading indicators, things that are basically [00:08:00] like a red siren going, Hey, you take care of this or someone's going to get seriously hurt.

So how do we get our management teams to realize this and to start paying attention to these. And there are several ways that you can do this. You could do it at manager's meetings. You could do it in monthly reports. You can do it from questions from your executives and things like that. So we're going to get into all of these ways that you can start shifting their focus from lagging indicators to leading indicators.

And what I want you to do is to start taking control of how you do this. It is your data, my safety friend. It is your information. You are the keeper of the keys for the claims data so take control of it. And don't share your lagging indicators. If you stop sharing lagging indicators, [00:09:00] then they're not going to be focused on lagging indicators.

And I know what you're thinking. You're probably sitting there going book, Brye, I have to, they keep asking me for it. And that is perfectly fine. If they ask you for the lagging indicators, then share them. But most safety managers, when they are starting to share their numbers, They start off with their lagging indicators.

So stop doing that. What I actually teach my students in safety management academy is that you do not share lagging indicators. You only do it occasionally. And what I actually preaches that you do it every six months, six months, they get to see those numbers twice a day. Now if they don't like that, then okay.

Four times a year, I will give you four times a year, but you should not be sharing them any more than that because lagging indicators very rarely change. [00:10:00] The only people that should be looking at lagging indicators on a weekly or a monthly basis are corporations that have 10,000 plus employees until you have that many employees that you are overseeing.

Those numbers do not change on a weekly or monthly basis. It takes at least a quarter in order for those numbers to change. And I used to manage a region of 39, 40 or 52 locations across the United States, Canada and Ireland. And I would gather all of the information of those 52 locations and the numbers never changed.

But if I compared quarter over quarter, There was a change in the numbers that gave me something to focus on that I could then put a program against that I can then start focusing my improvements for and all of that. But if I was to just make that decision on a monthly basis, the change is minuscule.

So stop sharing your [00:11:00] lagging indicators unless of course they ask for it. Right? So when you're starting to make this shift, you can't just all of a sudden stop because everybody will freak out because we know how management teams are, don't we? So what you need to do when you start presenting at your manager's meetings, when you start sharing your monthly reports, then always start off

with leading indicators. That is the very first thing that you're going to start off with. And if you have a focused program, if you have a continuous improvement program where you are focused on one thing that you're trying to improve, like let's say you're improving the use of PPE at your facility.

Then you're leading indicators that you start to share with people always start off with the ones that are attached to that focused program. Such as are they wearing the PPE correctly? Are they inspecting it? Are they storing it correctly? And then go on to the [00:12:00] leading indicators that are probably causing most of your injuries, improper lifting, machine guarding, forklift operation, not whether or not they got into an accident, but how well they are following the SOP.

Those are your leading indicators. All right. And step number two, never, ever post your lagging indicators. If you're the type of person that loves to post, Hey, our claims last month were 10 and our claims this month or eight, stop it. What you need to be posting is last month, 85% of the time you're wearing your PPE.

And this month, 87% of the time you were wearing your PPE. That is what is going to move the numbers on your injury reports. Sharing those lagging indicators is just going look at our failures, check them out, everybody look at them. So if you're trying to shift your culture from going, we want to [00:13:00] look at leading indicators since stop sharing the lagging indicators.

Now, of course, when they ask for the information, you're going to give it to them. I'm not saying hide the numbers, but what I'm saying is that if you're not starting with them, and if you're not talking about them, then they will stop talking about that. Except of course, maybe your CFO. My CFO always liked to talk about lagging because he needed to prepare numbers.

And that is completely understandable. So what I did in that case is every month I would create a report for my CFO that went over the claims and the costs and the anticipated costs because he needs to know that for his information. Right. But nobody else really needs to know that stuff. Okay. Except for maybe twice a year or four times a year, if it makes you uncomfortable.

And as you're making this transition, you need to train your management team. You need to make sure that your management team understands what a near miss is. [00:14:00] And how Heinrich's triangle. If you just do a search for Heinrich's triangle and we'll put a link in the show notes, if you look up Heinrich's triangle and show them that I think Heinrich's triangle starts with like 600 near misses equals one fatality.

That's where people have a problem with this triangle. Cause they're like the numbers don't match and there should be different levels. Yeah. You can get all into that if you want to. But honestly, I like to show it without numbers. This large bottom part of the triangle represents our leading indicators.

And if we are having a lot of unsafe acts or conditions, it's going to lead to a serious expensive accident. I don't even say it's a fatality because you don't ever want to say like, oh, if you keep lifting improperly, it's going to lead to somebody dying. That's not necessarily true. So it's a serious injury or a costly injury that it's going to lead to.

And then you need to train your management team, not just on how this all works, but why [00:15:00] we need to focus on leading indicators and that when you actually are always talking about leading indicators, when you know the leading indicators, you should be watching, you're going to see better results in your accident

number. Lagging indicators for me, it's just like a fun thing to share. It really is. You get no benefit from sharing lagging indicators where you get benefit from is sharing the corrective action and the root cause of accidents, but not hair. OSHA rate was 1.2 and last time it was 2.4. Nobody understands that stuff.

So instead focus on the leading indicator. I feel like this episode, I've been a bit preachy. So anyway, so my safety friend, when you start to make this change, it's going to feel weird at first. And I don't want you to feel like you've been doing something wrong all along, because it is so common. I have sat through so many managers meetings where the safety manager gets up and I'm like, [00:16:00] you're going to share data.

Yep. And they automatically start with lagging. It's just the way everybody was trained, but it just doesn't work. So even though it's going to feel weird at first and the whole time you're showing your leading indicators, the back of your mind, you're going to be thinking they don't understand it. They want me to share the accident data, just stick to your guns, my friend, and be the confident safety professional that I know that you are.

And over time, you will start to see their focus changed as well. Maybe you can get to the point where you don't ever talk about leading indicators, or maybe you just talk about them the twice a year, or maybe you just share the reports occasionally. That is the goal. Is that really? You never talk about what your OSHA rate is or your claims rate or your moderate.

The goal is to always be talking about how we have improved compliance with our safe work practices, how people are lifting correctly or [00:17:00] operating equipment correctly, or how we're meeting our goals. That is the goal. Now, if you need help identifying the leading indicators you should be watching, then I definitely suggest that you check out safety management academy.

And that course, I show you how to create effective safety observations that are just chock full of leading indicators because everything on an observation form is a leading indicator. My safety friend already. That is what I have for you to day. Thank you so much for listening and I will chat at you next week.

Bye for now. Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been. For a while and are hitting a roadblock. Then I want to invite you to check out safety management academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee [00:18:00] participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever then you've got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at safety management academy. Just go to the safety geek.com forward slash SMA to learn more and to get started. That's the safety geek.com forward slash S M A.

And I will see you in our next students only live session. Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Definition Leading Indicators and Lagging Indicators
  • Importance of Leading Indicators
  • Reason Why We Don’t Need To Post Lagging Indicators
  • Important Factors To Be Focus More on Safety Workplace
  • Effective Strategies To Shift The Focus of Management Team To Leading Indicators


Now that you see the strategies and advice I shared on this podcast about leading indicators, what are your thoughts about it? If you think that it will be a big help to your safety work or career, please share it in the comments below. I really love to here your thoughts.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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