In my individual journey towards implementing Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), I faced two significant challenges. The first challenge was personal—it required me to change my perspective and mindset. Recognizing the difficulty I experienced in embracing HOP, I knew that convincing my superiors and senior leaders would be equally challenging, if not more so. This realization presented me with my second challenge: how to persuade the leaders and decision-makers that HOP represented a fundamental shift in our organization.
Gaining Support from Leadership: Planting the Seeds of HOP
To tackle the task of gaining support from leaders, I initiated conversations about HOP with an A7 leader, whom I admired for his receptiveness to new ideas. I introduced him to the concept of industrial empathy—the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the individuals working with equipment and tools, those who are at risk of getting injured. As an avid reader and podcast enthusiast, he readily embraced these resources I shared with him.
Fortunately, he quickly came on board and trusted my expertise as a practitioner. Although uncertain about how HOP would manifest in our organization, he supported me wholeheartedly, acknowledging that this could be a game-changer. Before officially accepting the job, I even did a presentation to my current boss, emphasizing my belief in HOP. I made it clear that I couldn’t go back to outdated practices centered around reactive measures and punitive approaches. To my surprise, my boss, too, took a leap of faith and became an even stronger advocate for HOP than I am.
The Power of Sponsorship and Language Transformation
I consider myself fortunate to have had the support of these two influential leaders, who acted as sponsors throughout the HOP implementation process. Their backing became crucial when encountering other leaders at my level who struggled to embrace HOP due to their deep-rooted belief in command and control. These sponsors used their authority and influence to guide the organization toward HOP, even if some individuals found it challenging to adapt.
In my current organization, I began by starting small, implementing HOP in incremental steps. I presented the concept to the board, the management team, and the superintendents, focusing not just on the what of HOP, but primarily on the why. I spent considerable time explaining the fundamental shift in thinking required and meeting leaders where they were in their understanding. Language played a vital role in this process. By subtly changing the way we talked about incidents and lessons learned, I aimed to shift the organization’s mindset.
Navigating Roadblocks and Ensuring Alignment
While introducing HOP was initially met with enthusiasm, the true test came when incidents occurred, challenging us to respond without blame or reactive measures. We encountered stumbling blocks, with some leaders struggling to differentiate between discipline and accountability. We had to slow them down, encouraging a response instead of a knee-jerk reaction. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, and some leaders found it difficult to break free from their ingrained beliefs.
During these challenging moments, having senior sponsors became indispensable. I had open discussions with my boss, emphasizing the importance of shared language and alignment. I expressed concerns about reaching the point of no return, where leaders failing to embrace HOP might undermine all the progress made and erode trust. Thankfully, my boss remained committed, and the management team rallied together, recognizing that the journey toward HOP might have setbacks but was worth the long-term benefits.
The Journey Continues: A Personal Reminder
Even as a dedicated advocate for HOP, I am not immune to reactive responses. A recent incident reminded me of the need to manage my own reactions and choose a more thoughtful approach. It highlighted the importance of context in understanding the actions of individuals and the necessity of avoiding knee-jerk judgments. This experience served as a personal reminder that HOP is an ongoing journey, and self-awareness is essential for maintaining its principles.
Implementing HOP within an organization is no easy task. It requires personal transformation, gaining leadership support, aligning language and mindset, and navigating through obstacles. The journey may encounter setbacks and resistance from some individuals, but with senior sponsors and a commitment to long-term goals, success is possible. As I continue on this path, I remain focused on the vision of a safer and more productive organization that prioritizes understanding, learning, and proactive measures.