Inside the mission to improve safety

October 8, 2018

Zero serious injuries. Zero significant process incidents. The vision is a tall order. For a large manufacturer like Koch and its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific, the challenge is great but vital in realizing our vision of making people’s lives better. 

More than 200 leaders from Georgia-Pacific, a Koch company, recently gathered at a summit in Atlanta. There, they shared what their teams are doing to improve safety performance by looking at new ways to leverage the problem solving potential of their teams through the application of Market-Based Management® and human and organizational performance concepts. 

“Bringing these leaders together to focus on human performance is an example of what stewardship means at Koch. We all have the responsibility to respect the lives and property of others and make decisions accordingly—no matter where you work, or where you are in the organization,” said Sheryl Corrigan, director, EH&S (environmental health and safety) and security, for Koch Industries. “Nothing is more important than human life, and that makes the safety of our employees and contractors and the safety of our surrounding communities our most important job. We also have the responsibility to look for new ways to tackle our opportunities that lead to better results. Our GP colleagues demonstrated this by taking the time to learn more about how human performance concepts are consistent and complimentary to our MBM® culture, and how they have been used in other companies to transform safety performance.” 

 [What is Market-Based Management®? Read more here.]

Jeff Koeppel, senior vice president of operations at Georgia-Pacific, led the summit, with active participation from GP’s business leaders (Christian Fischer, CEO; Kathy Walters, executive vice president, consumer products group; David Duncan, executive vice president, building products; and Scott Light, executive vice president, packaging) and capability leaders. Throughout the two days, teams discussed the case for change—why we need to transform—as well as specific ways to apply human organizational performance concepts at GP.

Here are Corrigan’s top takeaways:

  1. There is a big opportunity

Our data indicate that about 50 percent of our serious injuries at Koch Industries are related to human performance. It’s not equipment failures. It’s not a technological failure. Rather, it’s the result of good people making mistakes in the field, and our safeguards and defenses not working to contain the error or minimize a serious outcome. Outside of Koch, as much as 90 percent of the serious injuries in industrial incidents are thought to be linked to human organizational factors. So, that’s a pretty compelling reason for our operations and safety teams to collaborate for better solutions.

  1. We need a game changer

Traditionally, we’ve addressed human performance with training and procedures—all very important and necessary to equip our employees for the challenges they face. But we’ve reached a plateau in performance, and our GP leaders recognized that doing more of the same won’t get us to the next level. They challenged their teams to find a better way.

  1. Insight and innovation come from looking outside

Members of the Georgia-Pacific team consulted with experts at Chevron about their use of human and organizational safety concepts at their sites. GP also consulted with Todd Conklin, an industrial psychologist who has written several books about human performance. Using these resources, the GP team is working on crafting an experimental approach that combines the collective learnings. To succeed, our operations employees are engaged in helping us understand what conditions need to be in place to keep them safe, and how to make sure those conditions are in place all the time.

  1. It’s about learning

This mindset is very much aligned with our MBM® culture and guiding principles. Organizations that apply human performance concepts become more focused on learning. They unleash the power of employees who have the best knowledge and capabilities to solve specific problems. For example, incident investigation teams using human performance concepts ask questions geared toward gaining insight on context versus only focusing on root cause and effect. This context brings a richer discussion that often leads to multiple opportunities for change and improvement.

  1. Employees creating virtuous cycles

Creating more ways for employees to work together to make changes that improve our safety performance reinforces trust. This trust leads to more improvements, and it creates virtuous cycles that improve everyone’s lives.

[Listen to Charles Koch discuss how virtuous cycles of mutual benefit drive both good companies and a good society.]