Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A measured approach

"What gets measured gets done."

It's not a phrase I've ever been overly fond of, but we had a real 'Aha!' moment yesterday which can be neatly encapsulated by that very expression.

We run safety audits for a client who specialise in large residential property refurbishment projects. We inherited a rather clunky audit system which meant we found ourselves completing two overly lengthy 'checklist' sheets full of duplication and irrelevant items. One was 23 pages long and took over two hours to work through. 

We didn't feel that sticking with this was going to help us deliver the value we'd promised the client; there was a moment where Steve and I looked at one another and said in almost perfect synchronisation "This isn't working for them."

One month after using this system, we asked to overhaul it and showed the client clearly why. We told them we'd need input from the Site Managers whose sites are subject to the audits- both to ge a clear picture of what they needed to get from them and so that the overhaul was done in the spirit of inclusion and fairness. We were given the OK to develop a new way of doing things in January. 

Steve felt that clear measurement was needed, rather than an endless checklist; we decided to try a scoring system that rewarded Site Managers and their teams with a mark out of 100, with points allocated to each area- for example scaffolding checks, quality of inductions, accuracy of documentation, and communication with residents and the team. Site Manager responded positively to the idea, so we worked on it with their input and finally got to trial it during the March audits.

Three weeks ago we audited a site and found a number of issues- none life-threatening, but basic things that really should not have been present on a site being run by such an experienced Site Manager. It meant that overall, the site was not up to their usual high standard, and so created concern. We used the new 'scoring' system to illustrate the key points and reported back. The score was quite a way below the benchmark we had agreed Site Managers should aim for; the gentleman in charge of the site was disappointed but felt that the points system was both clear and fair and showed him exactly where he needed to focus his energy and make improvements. He told us he was determined to increase his score by at least 20 for the next visit, and blow the benchmark target out of the water.

We completed another audit yesterday. He gained 28 points, a safer site, and a smile the size of Belgium when we revealed his score.

So far, the new system is proving successful. It'll be refined and developed, fine tuned and improved as we move forward, as all the best things should be. But the main thing is that it's added clarity and a sense of purpose to an area that had been confusing, lengthy and of limited value to the people being assessed.

It's also added a competitive edge, with Site Managers asking what their colleagues' sites have scored, spurring them on to do better. 

However for us, the real success is that we are already seeing improved safety and better awareness in all site staff, and that's never ever a bad thing.

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