Plan, Avoid Being Sidetracked by Shortcuts

Whenever successful teams commence jobs or tasks, they want to complete them correctly, safely, and as quickly as possible. That simply makes good economic sense. In order to achieve those goals, they must always pay attention to the details and all the necessary tasks must be carefully planned out in advance so that they can be accomplished in an efficient manner. Efficiency, like safety, doesn't occur by accident.

If your team could benefit from more efficiently achieving successful results for future projects, here are some potentially useful thoughts. First, an inexpensive tool that is useful both in the planning and implementation stages of jobs is JSABuilder, where a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) can be developed utilizing database powered JSA worksheets. This is a tool that focuses on safety, but helps teams to develop and plan all the operational details for jobs in conjunction with the other planning tools that they use. They can leverage off the important experience possessed by their team members, further enhanced by years-worth of experience crafted into the JSA software. Good thorough planning will optimize planned work activities and eliminate the inclination to use shortcuts once work commences. As planning occurs, teams must hold themselves to a higher standard and accordingly avoid scoping any ill-devised plans which adopt potential shortcuts. While shortcuts may supposedly be great ways to complete tasks faster, teams/workers always need to evaluate whether or not the increased speed is going to result in any unintended consequences. It is always much better to do something properly the first time than to have to either redo it again or deal with the consequences from the shortcut in the future. Shortcuts are methods or means of doing something more directly and quickly but not in as rigorous a fashion or as thoroughly as with a normal procedure. Shortcuts supposedly allow tasks to be completed relatively quicker than normally possible because they eliminate often necessary scope items which were sacrificed from a proper scope. Sanctioning the use of shortcuts really implies that a workforce doesn't need to maintain discipline, which is key to quality, efficiency and safety. It's also important to realize that some individuals may try to independently use shortcuts, and teams should take steps to avoid that occurring. Set expectations within the workforce that the use of shortcuts is unacceptable. In the end, use of shortcuts may still be an individual choice by a worker who may be influenced by many factors. Projects that are minimally planned are at risk for use of shortcuts because they aren't sufficiently prescriptive, potentially encouraging deviations in scope. Those deviations often create challenges to efficiency, schedules, quality, and safety. Simply working quicker or more smartly on a task isn't usually a shortcut, that's efficiency as long as the task is completed in a diligent safe manner. Unfortunately, when using shortcuts, often what gets sacrificed are actions or essentials that were intended to support the quality of the intended result and safety of tasks contributing towards the completion.

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Teams should remember that use of efficiency enhancements is encouraged. For example, it may relieve the worker from performing some task steps personally if an efficiency tool shifts completion of specific details and rigor of a planned task into the background, yet all the steps do get completed and the worker can continue with subsequent activities. This is analogous to performing calculations using a calculator or computer in place of a pencil and pad of paper. JSABuilder, which supports project scoping/development similarly, is an example of such a tool. For another example, projects involving requirements regarding risks from hazardous energy sources, OSHA lockout tagout procedures are necessary, and a great tool such as LOTOBuilder, provides a sophisticated tool that automates and rigorously supports project lockout and tagout needs, and is better than most manual approaches when used as prescribed. These supportive tools actually aren't shortcuts, they are efficiency enhancers. They are ways of working smarter, and then because the completed forms are saved, investing results of existing planning efforts into future work as well as the current activities. A good JHA and LOTO procedure library is a great resource to support continuous improvement efforts and project efficiency in the future. It's always easier to start planning a project activity using materials from similar previous projects than a blank page of paper.

Even for well-designed and planned tasks, conditions often may change in the interim period between planning and actual task implementation. For many, this is the situation that requires the greatest discipline to avoid adopting shortcuts to keep the work activities from stalling. Initially the challenge is always simply recognizing that the conditions have changed. Then the correct response should always be a Management of Change (MOC) process to determine the appropriate changes in scope to mitigate the altered conditions. This is a systematic approach to dealing with scope or organizational changes, typically in project/task operations. The goal of this approach is to safeguard workers and facilities from potential harm during and following a transition from a previous condition. Do not allow tasks to proceed in an informally scoped manner…that is a dangerous shortcut to be avoided. The JSA worksheets used during implementation of a project are perfect to base/support MOC discussions. Then, when the findings and decisions are agreed upon, being the document for annotation where the results are described so that they may be forwarded and shared with other team members as appropriate. This is an important step for maintaining the integrity of the process and avoiding shortcuts. MOC discussions vary and can involve large multidisciplinary teams or maybe just one or two individuals depending on the circumstances. The key is to make sure the discussions involve technically qualified individuals and occur such that risks introduced by the changed conditions are properly discussed, evaluated, and the appropriate mitigations agreed upon, then documented.

When shortcuts aren't avoided, teams can expect issues, such as not implementing necessary safeguards, or not wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment to occur; then schedules get rushed because of lost (wasted) time dealing with the work idiosyncrasies. These distractions generally put safety at risk. The result inevitably is indirect costs that are encountered as a result of mitigating the mistakes or accidents. Some of these indirect costs and schedule issues might result from safety stand downs and root cause investigations, all which result in large investments of time and human resources, which could have been invested in completing tasks had the project been planned correctly. This all justifies whatever little time that might have been required in the beginning to properly and thoroughly plan the project correctly in the first place, with shortcuts avoided. So, do it right from the beginning, plan.

Find out for free how your planning process can be enhanced at JSABuilder; powering safety since 2007, to discover how the outstanding JHA/JSA software will help your team work safely so they can go home at the end of each work day without harm. Also check out LOTOBuilder for another top tool and follow us on Twitter @JSABuilder, where we tweet about Health and Safety, post Safety tips, and provide updates on current Health and Safety topics.