How the COVID-19 pandemic can help force systemic change in HSE.
When my husband and I lost almost everything in one night during Hurricane Harvey in the US, we took a hard look at our life and made a conscious decision to learn from it. One thing is for sure – that horrible event turned out to be a much needed wake-up call for us.
What the world is experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic is also a time where big decisions could change things forever.
As we now understand, we have no choice but to embrace uncertainty for the future. Everywhere I am sensing the same feeling I had after the hurricane: people hoping that this disaster will help us learn and change for the best. It is up to each of us to decide if we want to truly learn from it.
I hope this pandemic will help organisations move away from a blame culture, where failure is unforgivable, to a culture of psychological safety that is so desperately needed to shift the paradigm in health, safety and environment (HSE).
To learn and change for the best, leaders from national and international companies need a safe space to get together and define the future of safety culture by having non-hierarchical cutting-edge conversations.
'Leaders need a safe space to get together and define the future of safety culture with non-hierarchical conversations'
It was this open-mindedness, this willingness to meet managers and use their reality as a departure point for transformational learning that first brought CEDEP to the attention of the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ (SPE) HSE discipline. It was looking for an executive learning partner to build a programme with, a programme that would bring the seven recommendations of its ‘Getting to Zero’ technical report to life. The fit was almost too good to be true and the journey began.
Today, CEDEP offers two programmes in HSE leadership and culture:
- A programme designed specifically for the oil and gas industry: the SPE, in partnership with CEDEP, has been working for 18 months, involving many experts and leaders along the way, to develop a Safety Leadership Academy that offers its first course at the end of September 2020.
- The well-established and well-recognised CEDEP Leadership & Safety Culture programme serving other industries.
There is no sugarcoating in these programmes. It’s not a place where they teach or train managers to be good safety leaders, because this is nonsense in itself. Rather, it’s an in-depth experience where the learners do the learning, with the support of outstanding coaches and world-class experts, from a variety of fields such as human factors and Safety II, leadership in a VUCA world, sociology of organisations or HSE performance transformation.
A key part of these programmes is the learning community that is sustained following the residential programme. Both CEDEP and the SPE are organisations that foster community and a belief that this strength will help ensure learning is continuous and feeds back directly into the collective experience that establishes culture.
In such a disruptive time, we have more learning opportunities every day, but we will miss most of them if we do not truly listen, not just to what validates our assumptions.
Even if we don’t see what we can learn from this now, when the time comes to gather and reflect together, there may be pieces of a puzzle that will help us define a common vision and use this challenging time to change the way we manage HSE forever.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) is a global not-for-profit association which provides a professional home for 154,000 members of seven technical disciplines, including HSE and sustainability. spe.org
Safety Leadership Academy: [email protected]