Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey was at the top of her field, training hard and winning harder. Her success had built her brand. So much so that she diversified into acting with parts in two big budget, big publicity movies. Then it happened. Her reputation did not match her performance. Immediately the questions started – would she come back?
As the saying goes ‘the bigger you are the harder you fall’.
The shock and self-doubt experienced by Rousey and the public commentary about her performance and her future are also experienced by organisations and industries following a significant or catastrophic workplace incident.
There is the shock. That a colleague, friend or someone on their watch has suffered serious injury, or lost their life. There are questions about why the systems and the commitment to safety were not enough to prevent the occurrence. Your performance has not met your own expectations and the expectations of others.
Then comes the uncertainty about what comes next. Uncertainty about what an investigation will reveal about the failure, the associated consequences and the future cost of prevention. You will question if you are going in the right direction, including whether your systems and processes are adequate. The safety solution is not the only area of uncertainty for business – it extends to how to re-build trust, how to re-build brand and how to re-build performance. In short, how will you get back in the ring?
Like Rousey the business has to persevere. It has to assess what happened, what needs to be reinforced, what needs to be improved and what needs to change. Was there over training? Or undertraining? The wrong preparation? The wrong support team? Is there new technology or new techniques that can assist? Are there improvements that can be made to the system of work? Do you need a new coach? Or a new approach? In reality it is probably a combination of all these things (and more) for the business to get “back in the ring”.
Then the hard work needs to start again. Not from the beginning, but building on what was implemented before the incident and incorporating the lessons learnt. We often find that organisations that have experienced a significant or catastrophic incident take a different approach to risk control than those that haven’t. They keep a healthy level of vigilance on the performance of their critical controls and they drive the commitment to safety through all levels of their business. They use a variety of levers to engage and embed an incident prevention mindset – they are not afraid to bring in outside expertise to give them the edge to get back on top.
And like Rousey, it is important to take your time, consider your options and develop the right strategy to get you back in the ring.