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Attaining Excellence in Risk Industries by Mike White and Robert Popple


A risk industry is one that operates production or transportation facilities with the potential for widespread impact on the environment, the public, the workforce or all three when loss of control occurs. There have been no books that guide managers of such facilities in a systematic approach to tackling the issue of excellence and the prevention of accidents.

Using practical knowledge gained from experience in the nuclear, chemical, petroleum and transportation sectors, a systematic guide for improving safety, reliability and performance is provided.

This book provides a “how-to” approach for leading and guiding successful change. It uses the principles of excellence established for non-risk industries and applies them to risk management. This provides a framework for planning change, evaluating development and making continual improvements in the on-going search for excellence.

Both privately owned and publicly owned companies need to accommodate the demands of federal, provincial or state regulations. These must be met cost effectively. However, if these regulations are not met, operating licenses can be revoked.

Through the years, there have been large-scale accidents in risk industries, causing harm to the environment, the work place and the public. Individual companies and their facilities cannot tolerate such events in the future. Risk industries must respond to the rising concerns, and the resulting increasing performance standards of regulators, workers and the public. The best insurance is following the approach described in this book to secure excellent and reliable long-term operation.

There are certain elements that are essential when improving quality in safety, reliability and operation in risk industries:

A clear understanding of the reason for improvement (a “Burning Platform”) and the ability to communicate the associated vision in terms in which employees can understand. What will the facility look like, how will individuals feel coming to work and contributing their talents, how will customers, regulators and the public see the operation of the facility.

  • If you are not actively seeking to improve, you are already behind the leaders in your industry. Improvements in safety, plant reliability, operations, and work management positively impact the bottom line. Meeting minimum standards is no longer acceptable.
  • Involvement and engagement of the workforce will result in faster, better, and more cost effective improvements in the areas identified in the burning platform and vision. Without the engagement of the staff, leadership will not make the best decisions and any improvement will be painful and costly.
  • Without an accountable leadership team, the improvement initiative will be a rudderless ship changing direction with the wind and tides.
  • Structure is key for improvement to be successfully developed, implemented and institutionalized. Structure includes an improvement plan, performance measures, a change management process, and effectiveness reviews.

Beginning with the Eight Foundational Beliefs, the book presents the methodology to identify problem areas and a means of improvement. It outlines ways of developing commitment to the improvement through the communication of a clear vision. There are several methods of making that vision possible, but it is always essential to have a plan and recognize the need for short-term results to build a foundation for values that can lead to the desired performance. The book describes cornerstone of success – leadership, communication and worker involvement. The book also provides details on the associated processes required for success.

It is important to measure progress along the way and to make appropriate corrections when they are needed. Techniques to measure progress of implementing actions as well as their effectiveness are provided. The book guides you through the first critical step to start the journey to successful change, an action plan.

The stakes are high for risk industries. They must not only provide service, but they must keep the public’s confidence. Just one accident by an industry’s weakest performer can cause the entire industry to lose credibility. This will threaten or even destroy long-term existence of this industry. It is an immense challenge but it is possible to attain the excellence needed to ensure an industry’s survival. This book, along with your efforts, can make a large contribution to this challenge. If you have questions, please contact us.

It's All About Performance!