Toolbox Talks: Procedures are there for your worst day

Procedures are probably the single greatest way to improve the performance of an organization. After all, if we have determined the best way to complete a task, why wouldn’t we want to share it with everyone so we can do it again and again?

Consistency isn’t the only reason for a well-written procedure. In case you don’t remember, here are some other advantages of having and using procedures:

  • Reducing error rates
  • Easier to replicate a successful process
  • Transferring and retaining valuable knowledge
  • Documenting and sharing lessons learned
  • Augmenting training
  • Making information accessible in the field
  • Increasing efficiencies through prescriptive actions
  • Eliminating rework

There are so many reasons why procedures are valuable to organizations, you would think that people would be reluctant to do work without them. Instead, we find ourselves trying to convince workers that procedures are a good idea. One of the most often heard reasons for not using one is this: “Procedures are for people who don’t know what they are doing.”

I would argue that this statement is really just a deflection from what the worker really wants to say, which is “I want to do it my own way. I know where the hazards are. I know how to work around hiccups. I’ve found a few shortcuts that work for me. I can do this quicker if I can cut a few corners.” This is not to say the worker is looking put themselves or others at risk. It’s just the trap of overconfidence has them thinking they can control the risk.

As a coach, it’s important to help them understand that procedures aren’t there for you on your best day; they are there for you on your worst day. But here’s the problem: You don’t know if today is your best or your worst day. That’s why procedures must be with us EVERY day.

Toolbox Talks offers quick insights and thoughts to use for your toolbox (tailboard) talks. Dave Sowers is a founding member of Knowledge Vine, a veteran-owned human performance training and consulting organization that strives to reduce the frequency and severity of human errors in the workplace. He has almost 30 years of experience in power generation and the utility industry. He is a veteran of U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program and holds a bachelor’s degree in resources management and a master’s degree in both management and emergency management and homeland security.