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Culture Shock: Practicing Perfection brings its approach to human performance improvement to Canada

Tuesday November 08, 2011 Written by  Corrina Donaldson
The Practicing Perfection Institute Inc. (PPI) has established Practicing Perfection Canada Ltd., a partner organization that will offer the full spectrum of human error reduction and human performance enhancement services to Canadian organizations. Take a look around and you will find that the term “human performance” is everywhere. From the top leaders to the front-line supervisor and the shop floor, excellence in human performance is becoming the edge that organizations need to be on top in the competitive Canadian and international marketplace. In the manufacturing sectors, it is more than that, because while safety in the workplace is paramount, human performance improvement has as much to do with increased productivity and engaged workers as it does with workplace safety. Safety-based training alone, along with technology is not enough without considering the human element — especially in those very routine, day-to-day tasks occurring in the workplace where accidents tend to be more frequent due to complacency. The concept of human performance improvement is not new, so what is the big deal about the approach Practicing Perfection takes? Culture. Across all levels of an organization, our approach taps into the discretionary effort of its people, which changes the very culture of the organization to one that is not only constantly improving but is positive, productive and self-sustaining. In the past 10 years, the trend for organizations has been to focus significant effort and finances on keeping up with technology and software without investing enough attention to the largest cost that any organization carries on an ongoing basis: the people on their payrolls. Recently, our director of operations, Lee Lane (formerly the nuclear oversight manager for operations and maintenance for Ontario Power Generation), attended the American Nuclear Society Utility Working Conference. There was much discussion regarding how the advances in human performance improvement on the human level are lagging behind the pace at which process, training and equipment technology is advancing. Many attempts to improve human performance are made with engineered solutions or management philosophies rather than effective engagement techniques to sustain behaviour changes. While much of the new “virtual reality” learning technology is capturing operating experience, virtual learning alone is not adequate, especially for the next generation of operating staff. Errors are made in the real world. This dilemma is also prevalent in many industrial sectors. There is so much potential in the Canadian workforce. We have one of the highest educational levels in the world, and yet we don’t often take full advantage of the capabilities and competencies of our staff. This leads to frustration, disengagement and reduced productivity. The real benefit comes when we focus our teamwork and improvement initiatives on the people that have their “hearts, minds and hands directly on the work.” When you attract the desired behaviours through the experiences you provide for your employees, you will achieve the results you are looking for. When the Practicing Perfection process was initiated in three separate organizations working with 23 different contract firms in the northeastern U.S., they cut their human error rate by 72 percent in 14 months. Three years after the process was implemented, the error rate was still lower. Instead of management dictating the expectations and results they wanted to the staff and expecting them to “perform to expectations,” they engaged the entire team so they wanted to perform at the next level. In fact, staff drove the expectations even higher. Another key component to this process is effective coaching. Quite often, coaching programs are not usually experiences that employees look forward to, and quite often produce anxiety. Effective coaching comes from caring about the individual who is being coached by helping them to help themselves be successful. Corrina Donaldson is the director of training with Practicing Perfection Canada Ltd. For more information, visit www.ppicanada.ca.

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