What Gets Measured Gets Managed. Or Does It?

There is an old adage, “what gets measured gets managed.” This idiom has been adopted by EHS practitioners to help explain the complex metrics we develop. Work hours, inspections, EHS compliments…we can measure just about anything.

EHS professionals love data. Without good data, we feel lost. But it’s critical to scrutinize the value of a metric. I believe that a meaningful metric must:

  • Accurately measurable
  • Explain a result simply
  • Encourage a change in behavior
  • Have a target

Using these criteria, is a “total recordable injury rate” of 1.25/100FTE a powerful metric? It is accurate, somewhat simple, and can have a target, but it does not encourage a behavior change. A supervisor cannot come in to work focused on how she will reduce a recordable rate. It’s just not as compelling to encourage less of a bad thing.

Try to develop measures that encourage employees around a behavior, rather than penalize them for the wrong outcome. I’ve had success using reporting and corrective action after near misses or dangerous conditions. For example, measure the number of near misses reported (with corrective actions) and then divide by the number of recordable injuries.

Aside from identifying the right metrics, communicating them is just as important. Don’t keep them secret. Get the metrics out there, and you will at least have started the conversation. Pick a few metrics that hit your point, and delete the rest. Put a couple simple notes along with the numbers on what your recommendation is for improvement.

Chart for David Newman's blog

Finally, keep it under a page…or maybe skip the page altogether and use something visible in the workplace. I remember walking into a warehouse and seeing a huge traffic light at the entrance to show employees how many orders had been filled that day vs target.

So scrutinize the metrics you’re keeping. Don’t be afraid to do some housecleaning, and think about how to get a spotlight on the one or two that will make a difference in your organization’s EHS performance.

About David Newman

David Newman is Sr Director, Environment, Health and Safety at Comcast Corporation. He leads EHS programs for Comcast’s Northeast Division, which includes 14 northeastern states from Maine through Virginia and the District of Columbia. His 20 years of experience includes work in consulting, biotechnology and as a manufacturing plant manager. He is also a firefighter/EMT, runner and telemark skier in his free time.

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