Choices of Analogy
Over and over you hear people reaching for analogies (note to self: check spelling!) to explain complex situations.
If you like, and understand, football then this will come natural to you – unfortunately I’m not in that category, so some mistakes are inevitable.
The alternative you could have had would have been ‘it’s like putting up a building’, or ‘it’s like a Formula 1 racing team’, also not my expertise….let’s stay with football then.
What’s the unexplainable situation that needs an analogy?
A few times over my 20-year career in Health & Safety I’ve come across Directors and Managers who consider that everything can be broken down into date-driven ‘deliverables’.
So, when going about hiring a H&S Consultant, the blunt thinking is:
‘We need to be compliant….so when can you deliver that?’
This may sound reasonable to many people – after all, everyone these days has to reach peak performance and deliver on-time every-time if they want to get paid, don’t they?
Football analogy to the rescue!
How often do you hear people saying ‘well, it’s like (insert analogy)…and you’re thinking of all the exceptions which mean it’s nothing like that at all).
Try to restrain yourselves.
The football analogy here would be that a Chairman wants to hire a new Manager (or Coach?) to get them to the top of the (Division? League? Tree?).
At interview, the candidate is asked how soon they’ll get to this lofty target.
‘Well, that depends….’ doesn’t sound all that confident or decisive from an experienced applicant.
So an experienced candidate would explore the amount of control they would be able to exercise in order to get there.
For example, can they buy the best players? Will they have some say in the whole business – season ticketing, merchandise, player discipline and tactics, etc etc.
But in our scenario, the answer that comes back is ‘No’:
You won’t have any influence on budget and the players are already hired, you won’t know their capabilities before you start working with them (so you can’t choose your own team), and you’ll only have limited amount of time with them.
Now, when can you meet the target?! We thought you were an experienced Manager! (*sigh*)
I hope the analogous situation with hiring an external H&S Consultant is beginning to emerge.
Why can’t we specify tight targets and deadlines?
Achieving ‘compliance’ with H&S laws using a Consultant is, by it’s nature, a collaborative task. If one of the ‘partners’ doesn’t cooperate, everything slows down.
Although the Consultant might be very experienced, this doesn’t mean that the achievements are one-sided – it’s not just about generating paperwork (read previous blog posts on this).
I have some sympathy with the person who wants to hire a H&S Consultant, because generally they’re fairly in the dark about what they’re getting for their money.
The 3 main variables for a H&S Improvement Project are: Time, Quality and Cost.
The purchaser of services is at a disadvantage and, not knowing the ‘Quality’ they’re looking for, is likely to ask about ‘When will it be done’ and ‘How much is it going to cost’.
Our Advice?…put your toe in the water first
Collaborative working with someone you’ve only just met takes time to build up trust, so don’t take the rash decision of signing up to anything long-term before you know you can trust this person (or know you can get out of it easily and quickly).
If you’re not sure, don’t play the big inflexible Manager by thumping the table and demanding ‘I don’t want excuses, I want to know when we can get to the top!’
Instead, go slowly understanding that relationships, trust, and knowledge have to build…so ask:
- ‘What would be the first step?’
- ‘When could get that underway?’ then
- ‘Let’s review after that…we’ll know much more by then’
Right…now I need get away from analogies and go scrub the mud from my boots