The Evironment Benchmark

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Pathfinder Matrix®

Importance of alignment

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.

"In our experience, there is often a significant divergence of option between members of a company's senior management team." - Mike BaldwinE.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.”


The Pathfinder Matrix®

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
EHS philosophy.

“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.

Pathfinder Matrix®: Pathfinder Sets EHS agenda across its industry, Uses EHS performance as a tool for strategic advantage, A systematic, documented, line-accountable and audited approach to compliance. Leader Manages EHS strategically, Goes beyond regulatory compliance when it makes business sense to do so. Fairly proactive. Peer Manages EHS tactically, low profile, does not generally see EHS performance as a strategic asset Regulatory compliance implied — accountability not clearly defined. Follower Does the minimum to comply with laws and regulations Uses a just-in-time approach Compliance is EHS staff responsibility. Laggard Avoids its EHS responsibilities Totally reactive mode of operation

"By the end of the feedback meeting, they have achieved consenus and support for EHS strategies that best meet the needs and convictions of the company." - Mike BaldwinInterviews 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?


The “aha” moment

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.

"Our goal is for them to reach the 'aha' moment!" - Paul Pizzi“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.”

Timing is everything

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.

“At Anadarko, we saw the value of the Pathfinder Matrix process in action. Conducted on the heels of two major mergers, we were able to quickly bring into focus our combined EHS culture, identify our priorities, and set ourselves on an aligned path in developing strategy for EHS performance.” — David McBride VP, Environment, Health and Safety, Anadarko E&P USA

Benefits of consistency

The Pathfinder Matrix Process is just one tool companies can use to ensure that consistent and sustained EHS performance is the norm.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.


About the authors

Mike Baldwin

Mike BaldwinMike Baldwin has more than 40 years of operational experience in the petrochemical industry, particularly during acquisitions, mergers, demergers, partnerships and in the management of change. He has facilitated the successful restructuring of a Fortune 200 company, including development of an EHS strategy and management system and implementation of a downsized company-wide EHS organization. He has worked with numerous oil and chemical companies in assessment of corporate governance and EHS programs; in the development, implementation and assessment of effective EHS management systems; and in the optimization of EHS organizational support. Mike holds a BS degree in Chemistry from the University of Sheffield (England) and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Alberta (Canada).


Paul Pizzi

Paul PizziPaul Pizzi is Managing Partner of E.Vironment and heads the firm’s global Strategic Advisory practice. Paul’s 40 years of experience includes operations, engineering and environmental management positions with Sinclair Refining and BP. He works with senior management and EHS leadership of leading chemical and energy companies in shaping their short-term and long-term EHS direction and strategy. Paul has served as advisor to EHS integration teams on many mergers and joint ventures, including the Dow Chemical / Union Carbide merger. E.Vironment’s Strategic Advisory practice includes Senior Management Alignment, EHS Function Optimization, Business Risk Management, Process Safety Management, EHS Management Systems and EHS Auditing and Compliance Assurance.