“The foam did it.” That was the conclusion offered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) after the loss of a spacecraft and its crew.
Nice try, but the less-known answer was: “The NASA organizational culture had as much to do with the accident as the foam.”
That insight was shared at the Nonprofit Risk Management Center 2016 Risk Summit by Melanie Herman, executive director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, and Aaron Lundberg, president and CEO of Praesidium. Their point was that when accidents happen, very often it is no accident.
Managers need to develop and foster a culture of doing things right and caring about what happens: A Culture of Safety.
When something goes wrong, it is not unusual for there to be an orgy of hand-wringing, finger-pointing and back-stabbing, with the possible firing or reassigning of individuals, some of whom might have borne no responsibility for the disaster.
If there was no Culture of Safety, then it wasn’t the people, it was the system, the organization, the enterprise. Herman and Lundberg said a Culture of Safety has seven characteristics:
- Standards are clear.
- Standards are enforced.
- Everyone knows safety is part of their job.
- Everyone takes warning signs seriously.
- Employees report their concerns.
- Morale is high.
- Quality is institutionalized.