Archive for March, 2011
An NAEM member posed the following question at a recent NAEM event: “If you could recommend only one book to your fellow EHS professionals, what would it be?”
My nominee would be “The Effective Executive,” by the late Peter F. Drucker.
Why? First of all, don’t let the word “Executive” turn you off. When I first read the book, I was a junior manager responsible for the environmental program at a manufacturing facility. Back then, there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. I found myself nearly burned out after six months in the position. Drucker’s book taught me that effectiveness isn’t a gift that certain people are born with, rather it is a learned set of practices, and the following key practices must be learned and made into habit by:
- Managing your time: Drucker points out that with even the most sophisticated executives, there is frequently a disconnect between where they think they spend their time and where their time is actually spent. He recommends doing a one week inventory of your activities every six months.
- Choosing your main contribution to the organization: This is more difficult than it sounds. It requires a keen understanding of one’s own capabilities, insight into the organization’s needs, and the discipline to work within the role you’ve defined for yourself.
- Setting the right priorities: Drucker suggests selecting a few, critical areas where you can make the maximum impact and focusing your energy on them.
- Knowing where and how to focus strengths: Drucker states emphatically that individuals and organizations should leverage what they are good at. They should understand and compensate for their weaknesses, but build on strengths.
- Making decisions prudently: Drucker gives compelling examples of the value in disagreement and the importance of a diverse set of perspectives when making decisions.
These five principles may not seem like much of a revelation at first. But, in the midst of the day-to-day grind, it is easy to become reactive to events, loose ones bearings, and end up busy rather than effective. As an old boss of mine once said, “We pay for results, not effort.” Or as Drucker put it, “The ability to manage others isn’t proven, but one can always manage oneself.”
What techniques have you learned for ensuring effectiveness? What lessons have you taken away from situations you’ve observed where bright, capable, experienced people came up short?
In the midst of a cold, snowy Michigan winter I’ve been enjoying rediscovering and reflecting on my Scottish heritage. I’m finding it much more enjoyable now than I did many years ago in my Scottish secondary school. I’m reconnecting with heroes like Robert the Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie and of course William Wallace of “Braveheart” fame. (Who can forget the blood chilling cry of Mel Gibson’s Wallace: “All men die but few really live?”)
Scottish history is filled with battles, won and lost, strained relationships, treachery and deceit, martyrdom, amazing acts of patriotism and important legacies to our society beyond kilts, bagpipes, whiskey and golf. ( See “How the Scots Invented the Modern World” by Arthur Herman.)
In the next few blogs I’d like to share my leadership reflections from Scottish history and stir conversation around themes like; the importance of planning, conflict resolution, the importance of a cause and the power of celebration.
When bravado becomes disconnected from brains the results can be devastating. Many battles were lost before they began because actions were initiated before adequate plans were developed.
John Maxwell the leadership expert describes nine simple steps in the leadership planning process:
P: Predetermine your course of action
L: Lay out your goals
A: Adjust your priorities
N: Notify key personnel
A: Allow time for acceptance
H: Head into action
E: Expect problems
A: Always point to your successes
D: Daily review your progress
What are your golden rules for planning? What frustrations have you overcome? How can we better decide when the planning stops and implementation begins? We can learn from your experiences.
As we wrap up the first day of our EHS MIS conference in San Antonio, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the evolution of the EHS MIS marketplace and share a few trends.
When we first started this conference back in the 1990’s, data management was largely governed by spreadsheets and worksheets. In fact, I remember the audience’s awestruck reaction when an EHS IT manager from Mobil Oil showed a simple form they deployed to every location around the world to provide a uniform system for tracking incidents and injuries. In today’s computer-savvy, globally connected, mobile workforce, it’s hard to imagine how companies managed to collate and analyze data that way, but for years, this was what EHS managers had to do.
After the technology transition in the early 2000′s, we saw a dramatic increase in the use of software in collecting and tracking data. The emergence of a formal software industry provided companies with both customized and off-the-shelf software such as material safety data sheets (MSDS) databases, audit protocols, incident and emissions tracking, and corrective action planning.
Along the way, the software solutions have moved from individual tools to integrated solutions and from PC-based software to software-as-a-service. Today the EHS software industry is a mature marketplace that is helping companies solve traditional EHS challenges, while rapidly growing into new areas such as carbon reporting.
As we move into this next phase of growth, here are few trends I think are worth looking out for:
- Growth in carbon and energy management to help firms with their carbon tracking and carbon footprinting challenges
- Creation of “sustainability” tracking solutions to support sustainability reporting requirement and supply chain management
- Increased flexibility in software solutions to enable companies to configure their software to align with their business processes
- Greater emphasis in global compliance and training to support geographic diversity and accountability
- Integration of content and real-time access to relevant information such as key sources, protocols, case law within EHS MIS software
- Applications for handheld devices (tablets, iPads and phones) to enable practitioners to access information in the field
What trends would you add to this list? Is there other functionality you would like to see software systems include?