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Changing Organizational Performance One Behavior at a Time

Jerry Pounds, President, International Division

Dormant beneath the surface of your BBS process are some core tools that can be utilized to enhance many of the organizational results that drive profitability. What are these core tools? They are so misleadingly simple that we sometimes overlook them.

One of the first things you learn in BBS is the value of identifying the specific at-risk behaviors that are linked to most of your injuries. Although you need to observe many practices and behaviors, the at-risk behaviors are the “low-hanging fruit”; they cause most of the injuries, so changing those behaviors will quickly lead to fewer injuries.

The behavioral principles upon which BBS is anchored emphasize the value of identifying behavior very specifically—so that we can observe whether or not the behavior occurs.  If we see someone put on their hard hat, we can check off that box on our observation sheet. If they are wearing their hard hat, then we know they put it on, so we also can check the box.

So one behavioral “tool” that we use in BBS is identifying specific, observable behaviors for our observation checklist. It is interesting that in other initiatives like Lean and Six Sigma, performance solutions do not drill down to the specific behaviors that cause the problem. Of course they identify systems and process problems just as we do in BBS, but neither process identifies the specific, observable behaviors that will resolve the problem or lead to better performance.

The reason “pinpointing,” (identifying and describing value-added behaviors so that they can be observed and measured) is important for the success of any organizational change initiative is because organizational change begins with changing individual employee behaviors.  Initiatives like BBS, Lean, and Six Sigma are major organizational change processes with the objective of making changes in human performance.

Pinpointing is important because it allows the observer and leaders to provide positive feedback to employees about behavior that increases their personal safety and that of their co-workers.  If positive feedback is presented to employees for product quality improvement behaviors or customer-service- related behaviors you get the same result—behavior change.

When you work with frontline employees to identify specific behaviors that will improve quality, service, or reduce waste (as in Six Sigma), then they can develop a checklist of important behaviors that are linked to success.  A checklist of the five most important behaviors to improve cycle time, or improve scheduled maintenance is easy for an employee to keep and provides leaders with a tool for delivering  positive feedback.

At the root of all human performance there are simply behaviors: behaviors that lead to excellence and those that are the source of performance problems. Taking a lesson from BBS, we can work with employees to identify these behaviors and systematically change them. After all profitability is tightly linked to what people do—in short, their behavior.