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How to Know When to Use a Freelance Behavior-Based Safety Consultant

In a Webinar I did on April 30th entitled, "BBS on Life Support: What to do when a BBS program sputters,” I recommended that companies whose BBS processes need oxygen should find a good freelance consultant to come in and help them identify strengths and weaknesses – barriers and opportunities. In other words, get an objective, third-party to do the diagnostics on your process.

This is the most economical way to solve the problem, and in today’s tight times, the people who write the checks will appreciate a frugal solution. But, you need an economic solution – not a cheap one. Safety is important and you don’t want to risk employees losing faith in the BBS process or thinking that you don’t care enough to do the right things to reinvigorate your BBS process.

Most of the time (big generalization here) leadership support is the problem, and much of the time the problem is not them – leaders may want to be supportive, they may think they are being supportive – but no one has told them specifically what they need “to do” (behavior) on a daily basis to ensure the BBS process succeeds. The core problem is that in-house staff is usually not enfranchised to lead the leaders.

When an outside consultant comes in – a good one with the right credentials and bed-side manner – he or she can candidly give the feedback to leadership; the good, the bad, and the ugly feedback about their behavior. She can tell the President or plant manager or department manager what they need to be doing and saying to support the observers and the steering committee; how they need to sell the process and change the culture.

I’ve seen large organizations and small business sites that are each equally uncomfortable finding, selecting, and managing consulting advice. It is not easy to screen prospective consultants; some of them are good salesmen and poor technologists; some are geeky and strange but they are great problem solvers and have very creative solutions. One thing they all require is likeability to be successful. I’ve recruited, hired, and managed dozens of consultants in my consulting career; one common trait that is essential to their success, is likeability – the friendliness and warmth that allows them to bond quickly with employees and earn their trust.

“Why not just go to one of the big consulting companies and have one of their consultants come in to help?” Several reasons; one is that they are probably just going to tell you what they told you before – only harder. They will tell you that the reason your BBS process is not working is because you did not do what they told you to do. They said that you had to do it a specific way and you modified it a bit to make it fit your business or operations exigencies. It’s a no-win situation for you.

Or, they try to sell you more training, books, DVDs, workshops, certifications, or surveys. The reason your BBS process is not working is because you have not spent enough money with them. Also, it is not a good idea to go out and select a new consulting company to install another process over the old one; that is not a good solution.That’s throwing good money after bad. The reason that BBS processes don’t work is not because one consulting company has a better or worse process than another. As Shakespeare said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Going out and hiring a consulting company that walks in the door with a sales agenda and a canned methodology a robot could deliver is not the answer to sluggish BBS processes. A good, clean, objective diagnosis is the answer. Nine times out of 10 you have problems because the Steering Committee is ineffectual and that’s because leadership is not supporting them properly.

My experience tells me that there are hundreds of companies around the world that are about to give up on their BBS processes – because they can’t identify their problem and implement a simple solution.