You Can’t Proceduralize Everything: Using Connection and Curiosity to Improve Safety and Reduce Errors

In a high-hazard industry like manufacturing, procedures and policy play a critical role in promoting safety, reducing errors, and ensuring the job gets done. But when you only focus on strict procedures, it can prevent you from rooting out the deeper issues in your organization.

With a background as a firefighter, EMT, and military paratrooper, Dr. Jake Mazulewicz has firsthand experience in high-hazard jobs, and combines his background and Ph.D. research to help organizations reduce errors and create safer, more reliable systems. He recently came onto the Mindfulness Manufacturing podcast to talk more about why you can’t proceduralize everything, plus share insights and stories on why connection and curiosity are key to creating safer, more productive organizations.

You Can’t Proceduralize Everything, Insight #1: Mechanistic vs. Adaptive Models

In industries like manufacturing, there are jobs that need strong procedures and policies in place. For example, maybe there is a specific kind of machinery that needs to be operated in a strict, step-by-step way to reduce the risk of serious injury. Working with this type of machinery requires a mechanistic model, which relies on a specific procedure.

On the other hand, some jobs may require an adaptative approach. These tasks lean more into tacit human knowledge, and may require more troubleshooting instead of following an explicit procedure.

In an ideal environment, both mechanistic and adaptative models are used and respected. By understanding when a situation calls for a mechanistic or adaptative approach, you and your team can find the safest, most productive way to move forward.

You Can’t Proceduralize Everything, Insight #2: The Role of Conversation

While procedures have a time and place, there will always be lessons and insights that can only be learned through conversations. For instance, someone who has been with the team for years might be able to pass on information that a newer teammate might not learn from reading through procedures or policies.

Information is shared through conversations, which is why it’s important to forge strong connections on the manufacturing floor. When your organization has a culture where people share information with each other, you’ll find improved safety, reduce errors, and a stronger sense of unity.

You Can’t Proceduralize Everything, Insight #3: Approach Errors with Curiosity

When an error occurs, it’s natural to jump to wanting to write-up or punish the person who caused the error. But when an error happens, practice curiosity. Find out what caused the issue, and look for a deeper root issue.

Remember: errors are signals, not defects. When a team member makes a mistake, especially if they have a usually good record, it could be a sign of a deeper issue. So stay curious, foster productive conversations, and create an environment where people feel encourage to honestly speak up.

Learn More on the Podcast

To hear from about procedures, safety, and errors with Jake Mazulewicz, be sure to check out his episode of Mindfulness Manufacturing here.