Simple Is Best, But Don’t Oversimplify

In Business, Business Management, Coaching, Improvement, Planning by Stephen RogersLeave a Comment

One of my well-used comments for any management system is to “keep it simple, document only what needs to be documented for consistency and understanding”.   Lately, I have seen too many organisations, even some larger ones, start to oversimplify their documentation, losing the fundamentals and the purpose behind the creation of documents.

This oversimplification has come from several well-intentioned considerations, but the real cause behind it has been a lack of understanding of the process required to develop these documents.  For instance, the development of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMSs) or Job Safety Analyses (JSAs) was driven through the construction industry, required for high-risk activities, with two purposes; better documentation of task steps and the hazards, risks, and controls in those steps, and engagement of the work teams undertaking the tasks to have them participate in the identification of these requirements.  This has transitioned into them being used across almost every industry for every task, including those that are routine and non-routine.

Why?  Because businesses can “mass-produce” these; cut and paste content, with a simple sign-off by the workers to acknowledge the content.  Consultation has been overlooked to keep their use and development short and simple, to tick the box for having something that resembles risk assessment.  Unfortunately, many of the simplified documents relate to some form of assessment of risk. The organisation may engage the supervisor and maybe even a health and safety representative, but not the workers undertaking the tasks.  Yes, and I have heard all the arguments and justifications, predominantly associated with the time required.

It should take time to get it right. It should take time to ensure proper engagement and consultation. It should take time to educate workers in the correct processes that help them think better on their own, unsupervised, to make sure they get it right for themselves and those around them.  Investment of time is a must because without it companies are developing useless documents that add no value.  That to me is a greater waste of time.

Carefully look at the consultation and engagement process in your business.  Are you genuinely getting feedback from workers, or is it a token effort?  Look at their participation in the forms of risk assessment that you have, and if you don’t have any then start.  Things can always be improved.  Workers typically want to participate, especially if the reasons why are explained to them.  Sadly, many workers feel they are being disregarded by their organisations, that their intelligence is of little value.  This can be turned around through genuine engagement and demonstrating inclusion, respecting worker input, and incorporating their comments where they add value. 

But let me qualify this; explain the requirements, provide the boundaries, and where comments are not on point, clarify why.  It is not a brain dump.  The output must add value and meaning otherwise we are still creating useless documents. If you are having difficulty in making this work in your business, why not use your Free Consultation session to discuss options and ideas with me?  Book your time now.

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