Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act ‘rightly’ because we are ‘excellent’. In fact, we achieve ‘excellence’ by acting ‘rightly’ -Plato, Greek Philosopher

In our 20-year journey of working with shipping organisations all around the globe, what we have seen is the striving for safety excellence, an embedded value for many shipping companies.

But to excel in safety and achieve a strong and proactive safety culture requires us to look at our ways of thinking, reviewing, and evaluating our safety performance. Key Performance Indicators are used to show an aspect of safety performance, but when we talk to people, on board and ashore, we see a different picture.

Continuous formal and informal performance reviews is an important prerequisite to ensure the safety performance both on-board and ashore.

What makes a performance review reliable?

With our long experience in performance management and development, we have identified that a reliable performance review can be achieved by taking these guiding principles into consideration:

Continuous reviews
If we don’t review the performance on a continuous basis, we are not able to identify improvements. The value of performance reviews is multiple as they don’t just rely only on the actual finding. Reviews benefit individuals and teams with the opportunity to reflect, discuss and learn. Unless this is done several times in a long-term time frame, people will forget. Forgetfulness, the ‘sister’ of negligence, is the enemy of excellence; because the human brain tends over time – if not reminded – to forget and distort our view on how we best perform our tasks
Firsthand review
The ones who are to evaluate the current safety performance must always be the seafarers themselves. On far too many occasions we see that office tries to control everything that happens on board, from the desks ashore. So, we must build an open and trusting working environment that lets the seafarers express their honest opinion about the present safety performance on board. At the end of the day, only the crew members know what is really happening on board. They are the most relevant persons to review their perception of the quality of the safety on board
Openness
“To question oneself and others is the highest human excellence,” said Socrates, so everyone must be prepared to accept review. We know from the SAFETY DELTA survey statistics that senior officers generally perceive the safety performance on board to be better than the junior officers and ratings. Having an open dialogue that involves all crew members and the leaders is crucial. The dialogue must be without prejudice, fear or blame for weaknesses, which is important for the crew to jointly decide on the improvements to be implemented. Besides, dialogues should also highlight the strengths to build on. Those components are signs that the organisation have come a big step closer to performance excellence.
Capacity to adapt
Finally, the basic condition for achieving a strong, proactive safety culture is to always think of and breathe for safety. Seafarers must be able to make the right judgements when they perform their work, and so shall the office staff. Even for routine tasks, every work situation is unique, so whenever a task is being performed the current situation to a large extent decides how it can be done at best; this puts demands on the way we think.

Our way of thinking

Controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened requires that we think differently and think ahead. Human thinking leads to perceptions that again can affect our actions and behaviours. In other words, the way we think is decisive for our successes and failures – our possibility to excel.

Therefore, the focus should be on the way we think; meaning, the way we reflect, analyse, reason and argue. The degree of our thinking helps us make the right decisions when performing a work task. Our thinking, pre-defines the outcome of our decision.

How do we develop our ability to think in a proactive manner about our safety lifestyles? As it can be derived from John Dewey’s ‘thinking thoughts’, the only level of thinking defined as being proactive is when we consciously seek to learn before an event and the actions we make are justified through some level of analytic thinking. Aim to think about our ‘safety lifestyle’ (how we behave safety) and apply a critical and reflective mindset. The most important duty of shipping organisations is to create an environment that allows people to do so.

This article was published in the Greek maritime magazine, Naftica Chronica in May 2022

Do you want to know more about evaluating performance?

Contact us for personal advice

Erik Green
Erik Green
Managing Director and Partner
Copenhagen

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