E.Vironment is proud to provide The E.Vironment Benchmark,
a periodical focused on leading-edge thinking in the advancement
of Environmental, Health and Safety Management practices.
Most people know that a car will perform better if its wheels are correctly aligned. Proper wheel alignment optimizes efficient performance and ensures that travel is straight and true, without the vehicle pulling to one side or the other.
E.Vironment believes that alignment similarly benefits the long-term management of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) performance. To ensure the most efficient delivery of a company’s EHS strategy, senior management must be aligned to a common EHS philosophy. When the entire management team has fully committed to one strategic EHS direction, everyone in the company can then confidently follow that plan, realizing optimum performance and achievement of corporate EHS objectives.
Unfortunately, according to Mike Baldwin, E.Vironment Senior Management Consultant, very few companies automatically enjoy this consensus.
“In our experience, there is often a significant divergence of opinion between members of a company’s senior management team,” notes Baldwin. “This results in employees receiving mixed signals from different senior managers. The ensuing confusion and inefficiency produces less than optimal – and sometimes even unacceptable – EHS performance.”
To help corporate management achieve consensus, E.Vironment offers the Pathfinder Matrix Process, a proprietary system that E.Vironment has developed and successfully demonstrated to galvanize executive commitment around a common direction and
“Over the years, we’ve found the Pathfinder Matrix Process to be an effective and value-added approach to helping a company’s senior management team reach consensus on a single EHS strategy,” explains Paul Pizzi, Managing Partner of E.Vironment.
The Pathfinder Matrix Process encourages management team members to clarify their perceptions of the company’s current and future position regarding Environment, Health and Safety direction and philosophy – as a Pathfinder, Leader, Peer, Follower or Laggard – as defined in the chart. (See “Diagram 1” on next page.)
Critical to the success of this process are the individual interviews with members of the management team conducted by E.Vironment. Interviewees typically include the CEO, his or her direct reports, and others depending on the organizational structure and wishes of the client. Individual meetings generally require less than an hour, and help determine where each executive believes the company fits on the Matrix with respect to EHS policy and direction.
Interviews are customized for each company to identify issues essential for the company’s EHS leadership team to optimize support of the EHS strategy set by company management. In addition to the Pathfinder Matrix categories, E.Vironment includes a series of questions to obtain greater detail regarding particular company EHS concerns, including:
- What are the top EHS issues facing the company?
- Are the company’s EHS vision and values clearly defined?
- What is management’s commitment to EHS?
- What is your role in implementing the company’s EHS strategy?
- How does the company’s EHS commitment and performance rate in comparison to its peers?
- What is your relationship with EHS staff members? Do they speak in language you can understand?
On completion of individual interviews, E.Vironment consolidates the data and facilitates a feedback session with the entire management team. At this meeting, interview results are reviewed and discussed until consensus is reached on EHS direction.
“Most times, a company does not fit into a single Pathfinder category for all disciplines,” explains Baldwin. “In fact, it’s not uncommon for a company to have different targets within a single discipline or for different businesses. On safety issues, they may want the company to be a Pathfinder in emergency response and preparedness, and a Leader in all other safety areas.
“The purpose of the Pathfinder Matrix is to lead the management team to consensus on the future direction for EHS,” explains Pizzi. “Quite often the CEO’s target for the future is significantly different than that of the rest of the management team. Our goal is for them to reach the ‘aha’ moment. When we graphically present them the results of our interviews containing their (almost always) divergent responses, they quickly understand why they are where they are and what work they need to do to reach consensus.”
“Most of the time, they reach consensus among themselves,” agrees Baldwin. “By the end of the feedback meeting, they typically achieve unanimous support for EHS strategies that best meet the needs and convictions of the company.”
Planning for a consistent and successful EHS strategy is certainly not an everyday occurrence.
However, companies undergoing some type of transition typically realize significant benefits from the Pathfinder Matrix Process.
During acquisitions, for example, cultural issues from legacy companies frequently lead to disconnects regarding strategy and desired performance for EHS. The Pathfinder Matrix Process helps address the need to plan for greater consistency.
“In addition, if there has been an increase in the number of significant incidents, and management wants a reality check to confirm the correct processes are in place, the Pathfinder Matrix Process would be useful in ensuring employees receive a consistent management message on EHS,” adds Baldwin.
Benefits of consistency
Companies with clearly defined EHS strategies, goals and metrics optimize their effectiveness and more easily respond to current business realities. Aligning EHS performance within a company – and aligning EHS policy with corporate strategy – assures efficient performance throughout the organization, without employees being sidetracked by competing points of view.
“When employees receive a consistent management message on EHS, they can more easily achieve desired EHS results,” Baldwin maintains. “In turn, this leads to fewer costly incidents, less time wasted in duplicated work and continuous performance improvement.”
The Pathfinder Matrix Process is just one tool companies can use to ensure that consistent and sustained EHS performance is the norm.