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You might have succeeded in changing: Using the annual evaluation to document progress!

I know some folks use the fiscal year (or as one boss a long time ago used to say, the physical year) for managing their annual evaluation process, but I think most lean towards the calendar year. At any rate, I want to urge you (and urge you most sincerely) to think about how you can use the annual evaluation process to demonstrate to leadership that you truly have an effective program: a program that goes beyond the plethora of little missteps of the interaction of humans and their environment. As we continue to paw through the data from various regulatory sources, it continues to be true more often than not that there will be findings in the physical environment during your organization’s next survey. In many ways, there is almost nothing you can do to hold the line at zero findings, so you need to help organizational leadership to understand the value of the process/program as a function of the management of a most imperfect environment.

I think I mentioned this not too long ago: I was probably cursing the notion of a dashboard that is so green that you can’t determine if folks are paying attention to real-life considerations or if they’re just good at cherry-picking measures/metrics that always look good. But as a safety scientist, I don’t want to know what’s going OK, I want to know about what’s not going OK and what steps are being taken to increase the OK-ness of the less than OK (ok?!?). There are no perfect buildings, just as there are no perfect organizations (exalted, maybe, but by no means perfect) and I don’t believe that I have ever encountered a safety officer that was not abundantly aware of the pitfalls/shortcomings/etc. within their organizations, but oh so often, there’s no evidence of that in the evaluation process (or, indeed, in committee minutes). It is the responsibility of organizational leadership to know what’s going on and to be able to allocate resources, etc., in the pursuit of excellence/perfection; if you don’t communicate effectively with leadership, then your program is potentially not as high-powered as it could be.

So, as the year draws to a close, I would encourage you to really start pushing down on your performance measures—look at your thresholds—have you set them at a point for which performance will always be within range. Use the process to drive improvement down to the “street” level of your organization—you’ve got to keep reaching out to the folks at point of care/point of service—in a lot of ways they have the most power to make your job easier (yeah, I know there’s something a little counterintuitive there, but I promise you it can work to your benefit).

At any rate, at the end of the process, you need to be able to speak about what you’ve improved and (perhaps most importantly) what needs to be improved. It’s always nice to be able to pat yourself on the back for good stuff, but you really need to be really clear on where you need to take things moving forward.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (for many safety folks)

As one year draws to a close (sometimes it takes until the end of January to be able to “close out” December), for many safety professionals, it’s time to start working on the annual evaluation of Environment of Care program. Hopefully, in reviewing performance over the last 12 months, you’ve made some improvements, but you’re hopefully also identifying the improvement opportunities that await your program in 2014.

The annual evaluation process is one to which I give a lot of thought over the year, as I look at how folks are administering the process. And I think my best advice is to think about the evaluation process as a way to tell the story of your program—unless you’re just “setting out” on the safety journey, you have a wealth of history (triumphs, frustrations, maybe one or two non-starters—remember, there are no failures as long as you learn something from them) and all-too-often, I see folks focusing only what has happened in the last 12 months without placing those 12 months into some sort of historical context. Use the evaluation of the scope, objectives, performance, and effectiveness to reflect the journey/story that has resulted in your program being where it is. I’m sure you’ve all experienced instances in which, when looking at the last 12 months, the picture you’re holding is somehow incomplete. You know you’re better/different than what you’re looking at, but how do you clarify that picture, particularly when you’ll be communicating that picture to your EoC team and probably organizational leadership?

I think if you focus on the (hi)story (I don’t think I could go back further than a couple of years—maybe five, but that would be at the very most) of your program, you’ll be able to  frame things in such a way as to really crystallize the journey. You are where you are for a reason and sometimes 12 months of activity/performance isn’t enough to provide a true appreciation for where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you are going.

It’s not just reporting EC improvements, but tracking whether they truly made things better

When I conduct the EC interview session with clients, I always review their annual evaluations, and I almost always ask the question, “Looking back at the last 12 months, what improvements have been made in the organization’s ability to manage risk in the physical environment?”

I then wait a moment before translating into English, “What got better in the last 12 months?” which generally results in [more]