I started this series by comparing the debate between cognitivism and behaviorism to the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Last week, I suggested that rather than pick one, it makes more sense to pick a holistic approach that combines aspects of each-part chicken, part egg-chegg. Or, in this case, part cognitive, part behaviorial-cognihavioral. Actually, I prefer to call it cognitive-behavioral. But what matters isn't what the approach is called but that it works. Let me now explain how and why. There are also some useful briefings about tools used by cognitivists that you might want to apply.
The Case for a Holistic Approach
A holistic approach incorporates a variety of behavioral theories and methods, rather than relying on just one. The reason a holistic approach is effective is that we are holistic as human beings. We don't operate solely on an observable physical level, but on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. These levels are closely integrated; each one affects how we think and act, both alone and in a group, as well as how we pay attention and our capacity to stay focused. We're also complex. Human personality, values, thinking and behavior are susceptible to many influences, including upbringing, work, families, economics, change in the work environment, etc.
Theories like cognitivism and behaviorism tend to emphasize some of these factors at the expense of others. Thus, it's not surprising that their effectiveness by themselves is limited. A holistic approach, by contrast, attempts to deal with the whole package. So, while it lacks the elegance of a coherent theory, the holistic approach works better when applied to real human beings and their environment.
Implementing the Holistic Approach
As with anything else, the effectiveness of the holistic approach depends on the right environment. It's important for everyone in an organization, from CEO to team leader, to be committed to it. To be successful from our perspective, the effort must be holistic, integrated (that is, involving various methods and systems working simultaneously) and multi-level (that is, involving all employees).
Otherwise, results may be short-lived at best. With a behavior-based approach, behavior may change and safety performance may improve as long as the observations and/or reinforcement continue. But between observations or reinforcement, or once they end, unsafe or unwanted behaviors may return and safety improvements diminish unless there's a belief in the value of the behavior for the individual or group. Once a person believes that they or others could be hurt in some way, and that there's a value or benefit in behaving safely, he/she will behave safely whether they're alone or with others. They will use the tools they learned out of their commitment to their own health, well-being or whatever their motive and benefit may be. Along with the importance of individuals being self-motivated, to achieve and sustain a fundamental shift in safety-related attitudes, beliefs and feelings among all employees, there must be management support for true and long-term change in the organization's safety culture.
But given the right conditions to prosper, the cognitive-behavioral holistic approach can effect sustained, positive change including:
- Improvement of attitudes;
- Changing unsafe beliefs and behaviors;
- Increased ability to focus and pay attention;
- Building of trust;
- Development of open communication;
- Fostering of personal responsibility and participation by management and line employees; and
- Heightening of employees' ability to meet new situations and challenges.
Achieving the Goal
The primary goal of a holistic, integrated process is to effect positive changes that are both permanent and generalizable. Permanent means change that lasts even after training programs, observations and reinforcements end. Generalizable means change that people apply in all situations, work- and nonwork-related. In other words, we want employees to apply the lessons and good habits they learned driving a forklift, working on a production line or at a bench in an R&D facility, when they operate other machinery or carry out other work functions. Just as importantly, we want them to apply these lessons and habits to the things they do after work-at home, on vacation or at the mall.
When such change is achieved, people will understand the consequences of unsafe practice at a personal level, will believe in and value safe practice and will think safely and apply their understandings wherever they are. They will be self-motivated and self-managed individuals who behave safely "even when no one else is looking."
This foundation of "personal responsibility for one's own safety" can then be enhanced by using team and leadership support. Both line peers and senior level employees provide positive social reinforcement for improvements in safe behaviors and expressions of safe attitudes and beliefs. Such social reinforcement occurs on a random basis throughout the day, demonstrating the impact of corporate safety culture on social reinforcement. The more structured behavior-based observation and feedback method can then continue to be useful to reinforce and support specific safety habits, such as proper use of PPE.
Achieving progress in the realm of safety, health and the environment is a matter of changing both attitudes and behavior, as well as the culture that supports them both. Cognitive and behavioral theorists argue over which comes first, attitudes or behaviors. A holistic approach cuts through the academic debate-the struggle over the chicken and the egg-and tries to incorporate the best aspects of both approaches.
A holistic, integrated cognitive-behavioral approach is a synthesis of two popular approaches to training-cognitive and behavior-based-and includes employees from all levels. They are best addressed by using the "chegg" approach. By combining a variety of behavioral and cognitive methods and strategies, we stand the best chance of effectively working with all the individual differences in the employee population. Skills to focus and pay attention are essential, as well as skills and techniques to manage our health and well-ness are needed today given the various influences that can create health and safety problems.
Safety is an employee function, one that includes both line/labor and management employees. Attitude and behavior change must not be solely focused on line/labor employees. The awareness of managers and supervisors must be increased and their attitudes and behaviors changed at the same time as other employees. Skills must be provided to observe and manage one's self as well as others.
Everyone must and should be involved in identifying and resolving corporate cultural issues and concerns related to safety, health and the environment.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
|The Ramstein Air Show Disaster|
August 28, 1988
Twenty years ago today Ramstein US Air Force Base in Germany held its annual Flugtag, or "flight day."
One of the most dramatic aerobatic displays was that of the Fecce Tricolore, the Italian elite flight display team. In their "Pierced Heart" formation, two lines of aircraft looped to form two halves of a heart, passing one another 45 meters (130 feet) above the runway. A lone aircraft was supposed to "pierce" the heart, flying through it toward the audience.
At the critical moment, three planes collided. The "piercing" aircraft hit the runway, spraying jet fuel and wreckage into the crowd. Another plane struck a medevac helicopter. Thirty-one people died, mostly from shrapnel. Sixteen died of burns in subsequent weeks. In all, 67 spectators and three pilots died, and 346 more watchers were wounded. The incident took less than seven seconds.
One of the most serious hindrances was lack of co-ordination between respective authorities. German ambulances were held up at the base gate, even as German helicopters were landing on the burning field. Base personnel responded immediately, but had difficulty triaging, and even finding, the wandering, shocked victims, due to the sheer number of them. Incompatible equipment, and language difficulties complicated matters.
The next day, West Germany banned all public air shows. Though the ban was lifted in 1991, aircraft are no longer allowed to perform stunts overhead or within 400 meters (1200 feet) of the audience. Ramstein AFB has not held another Flugtag.