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Applications of Behavioral Technology Before BBS: Part 2

Behavior-based safety (BBS) processes, borrow heavily from the science of behavior analysis, using behavioral tools to decrease at-risk behavior and increase the frequency of safe behavior.Many behavioral tools, included in but also in addition to those used in BBS, enable organizations to influence the behaviors that drive overall business success. Part 2 offers suggestions about how to capitalize on the skills, time, and investment you've made in Behavioral Technology through the implementation of BBS.

Why Were Many Behavioral Processes Not Sustained?

Why were processes with such profound effects on performance data not institutionalized and integrated into the policies, practices and values of these organizations? Why did most of these applications last no longer than a year? Although this is a subject of debate, the short answer is that the processes began as separate initiatives that ran parallel to the processes of the organization and that were mainly management driven.

The longevity of non-integrated, stand-alone initiatives driven solely by management depends on stability in the management ranks. Replacement of the management champion (usually the plant manager) created uncertainty and the initiatives lost focus and energy. The fate of the process was sealed when the new manager replaced any pre-existing management system, no matter how effective it appeared to be, with his/her own approach.

What Was Missing?

Those who have concerns about the sustainability and vigor of a current behavior-based safety initiative, might ask, “What was missing from the processes that fizzled?”The answer is that, first of all, these early initiatives ignored two important elements – employee involvement and continuous improvement.

One of the mistakes made in early attempts to apply behavioral technology to business issues was an emphasis on teaching managers and supervisors the intricate details of behavior analytic science. This created some educated and effective performance managers, but it did nothing to ensure the institutionalization of the concepts and principles throughout the organization’s systems and processes.

These applications often failed to include workers in problem-solving sessions; behavioral tools were seldom integrated into management systems; they existed as a parallel process with special action plans and, deadliest of all, they required more paperwork! Systems issues causing performance problems were not typically identified and resolved using the process and behavioral technology applications were structured as programs, becoming what its practitioners had striven to avoid…flavor-of-the-month status.

Sustaining Behavior-Based Safety: Borrowed and Integrated Tools

For processes to endure, they must become integrated into the systems and practices of the organization. They must be interwoven into the core of the culture. They must become part of the way things are done, indistinguishable and interdependent.Any stand-alone or parallel, performance improvement initiatives, including BBS, sooner or later will be abandoned.

So, how do you avoid the program du jour dilemma?

  • Transform your behavior-based safety initiative into an integrated process that extends the use of its existing tools and structures to a broader range of performance objectives.
  • Go back to the tool chest. There are several powerful behavioral tools that will deepen and enrich your current process by solving a wider range of problems. The more problems a process can resolve, the higher the probability it will be institutionalized and sustained.
  • Don’t weigh your systems (and personnel) down with additional forms and reports that could be seamlessly joined with existing data and feedback mechanisms.

New Applications

The behavior-based safety processes you have been using and refining can be extended to new opportunities with results as significant as those you have obtained in safety:

  • Business drivers
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Cycle time reduction
    • Defect reduction
    • Systems improvement

Using employee involvement and continuous improvement processes, upstream analysis can be applied to business performance variables. Behaviors related to problems and solutions are identified and the performance environment (systems, design, conditions, etc.) is changed to support behavior that will improve performance.

  • Observational skills
    • Identify new behaviors for performance improvement
    • Identify significant behavioral variations

Observer skills in evaluating the overall work environment and identifying specific behaviors encouraged or discouraged by environmental factors can be applied to discovering better ways to do things. Behavior that leads to improvement can be added to processes and tasks.