Organizations on the path towards excellence in any operational category must examine and plan to leverage their culture. Does the culture work with or against the plan? What will the culture support and what will it resist? Cultures do not resist change. They do, however, resist forced change. Forced change isn't always bad, though.

Cultures are a combination of shared values, beliefs, characteristics, capabilities, reinforcing stories, and behaviors that shape what and why people do what they do. To some organizations, culture was never an external element of their safety program; it was always an integral component. Others look at culture only when a point of diminished returns was experienced with previous effort. Cultures are the most effective sustainability tool an organization has; it works hard to maintain the status quo. Or, if involved and leveraged effectively, it will develop ownership and reinforce the desired direction of change, forced or otherwise.

Excellence in performance is only obtained through highly functioning cultures. Cultures can be leveraged to obtain significant results, but only if there is a clear understanding of the starting point, the destination, and the overall executable strategy. Leadership must realize they are not only responsible for the culture of the organization, but also how it is managed, to drive breakthrough performance. Culture can be a barrier or an opportunity. How you look at it isn't necessarily the answer; how you manage it is.

Strategies and self-implementable tactics are shared in this paper to provide individuals, regardless of industry and cultural maturity, with an overview on how to create and sustain a culture focused on safety excellence.

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