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Case Study

Behavioural Science for Leadership in Safety Waste Management Sector Case Study

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Type of course delivered: Online

Delivered to: Over 100 people

One of our clients is a top five UK waste management company. Like a lot of organisations in a high-risk sector, they’ve got their systems and procedures in place, setting out how they plan to carry out their work. But the reality of how that work actually gets done – can and does differ greatly. 

The team who had first-hand experience of this, were the business unit managers, who ran the show on a day-to-day basis. Here was an opportunity for them to look at how they could start to change the focus away from what’s written in the procedures, so they could really understand the underlying issues that come into play. In this case, why people do what they do – and what are their motivations to get the job done. 

Getting below the 'just and fair' culture in the safety space

Working together, we brought to life what a 'just and fair' culture is, because like a lot of organisations their focus was pointing in the wrong direction. For example, someone does a particular job, they’ve been trained, got the right kit and they’ve got lots of experience. But on this particular day, they just didn’t do what they were told. That’s not because they wanted to get hurt – there are other factors that have come into play. The more we understand, the smarter we get and achieve higher levels of safety performance. So, the driver for our client was to enable capability within their leadership teams, beyond what they had.

One of their biggest take-aways from the program was the simplistic approach of the KISS model – and the simplification of action planning in that context. They can now go to a regional meeting in one of their divisions and say, "let’s go round the table and talk about our KISS statements and what we actually did, as opposed to what we intended to do". That’s a completely different conversation to "here are the safety stats". They’re talking about what’s been done and what a difference it’s made based on what they’ve learned. They’re thinking about performance rather than being reactive.

Impact and outcomes

To date, more than 100 people across their collections business have gone through the program. They’ve noticed a difference in safety conversations starting at the highest level in the organisation. And, they’ve had a really strong commitment at the more senior level to safety, including their CEO, where they talk about what happened in the previous week. They start with the Swiss Cheese model – slips, lapses and errors – this has now become part of their leadership team conversations and has given them some good early indicators that the language of what they’ve started discussing, is becoming mainstream. 

The reaction has been one of enthusiasm and positivity around the learning, because it’s opened up insights that people didn’t previously have about why things happen in the way they do. 

Although they expected to see a change, they hadn’t expected to see it as quickly as they did.