For many years, there has been an ongoing appreciation of the continuous need to address human performance in the maritime industry. The springboard for instilling a proactive mindset towards safety comes from the recognition of the need to support the potential of people to develop their safety habits and to reflect on their behaviours. Addressing the human performance can be done in many ways. In Green-Jakobsen we use the Delta method which has a proven effect. It helps us discuss the work as imagined versus the work as done, and build a bridge over this gap.
To grasp what we call the Delta method, let us start with a couple of questions:
We believe that a true improvement in performance begins when an organisation is open to challenge itself, provoke its own ways of thinking and doing, questioning whether these help or let the company down.
We should treat our people as a strong resource, a pool of opportunity and talent in order to improve the performance of the company in a safe and proactive manner. We must move away from the thinking that people are the source of error; a prevailing way of thinking in the discussions about the human element in the maritime industry. Instead, shipping companies shall aim to become better at supporting their people as a potential for development and continuous improvement.
It is worth challenging the belief that having years of experience equals being on the safe side. No doubt experience is a good thing, but one cannot rely only on that. Failing to promote reflection and the crew’s ability to assess and react to the real situation and environment they work in, will make them incapable to adjust and become proactive performers who can actually be safe and contribute to the company’s overall success.
Modern companies tend to rely a lot on systems. The human element should always be linked to the ability of managing unique situations. Procedures, tools, theories, IT, systems, equipment only provides us with a starting point. What the maritime industry still needs is people who find pragmatic (safe and effective) solutions that match the needs of reality.
Our reactive thinking must and can be changed. Ticking boxes to claim that we are in compliance does not make the people proactive. A lot of tools are available that can help us think in a proactive manner, for example: The performance appraisal helps people discuss what can be done better in the future – but it only helps if it is not a paper exercise; The Toolbox talk –it only helps if it is not an instruction exercise but an involving dialogue where people share their thoughts and try to think ahead; Debriefing –it is useful if you don’t only do debriefings when something goes wrong and if it is actually carried out right after a task is finished.
First of all, we need a pragmatic approach to the human element meaning that you can only truly evaluate, understand and manage a situation when you actively participate. Proactive behaviour involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen, rather than just responding to a situation or waiting for something to happen.
The Greek letter Δ (Delta) is used in mathematics to indicate ‘change’ and the ‘difference’ in a variable. Green-Jakobsen uses the Delta method in order to work on the difference between how shipping companies imagine the work to be done versus how the work actually happens on the day, on the site, in the certain conditions at the time. Based on the Delta method, we ask questions that address areas which need attention, and also include assessing and discussing performance in a structured way.
Our customers who have used this method over the past years have made remarkable progress as they have improved in areas where they put attention, they know what is going on onboard the vessels and the improvements can be measured at regular evaluations.
The Delta method has provided our clients with a lot of data about their crews’ safety performance through the years. The performance is assessed within 5 safety areas and looking at 5 safety behaviours (Diagnosis) among all their crew members from master to ratings. Every time an evaluation is initiated, a proactive and structured Dialogue takes place, evaluating the areas where the crew feel they need improvement and must initiate more learning (Development).
During this entire cycle the crew members are actively participating in the process, discussions and activities. It is the crews’ perception of the actual safety performance on board and how they do their work that is the basis for the entire process.
To illustrate the voyage of one of our clients, data gathered over three years (see figure below) clearly shows a positive difference in the safety performance – as perceived by the seafarers themselves. The proactive and continuous focus on specific safety areas and behaviour related to the daily work on board has kept the seafarers’ attention directed towards their own performance and challenged their perception of how well they are performing in reality. They are the active passengers on the voyage setting the course and are not being told by someone in the office what to do.
Do you want to experience the Delta effect yourself? Contact us for setting up a free Safety Delta try-out on one of your vessels: firstname.lastname@example.org
Green-Jakobsen’s holistic approach provides innovative solutions that are unique and designed to develop the organisational and individual capacity in shipping and off-shore companies fulfilling industry requirements. Employees’ development and ability to perform even better is the core achievement. We understand the existing conditions and environments for the different staff groups and our development activities are practice near and relevant for them.