At the heart of it, many safety professionals need to understand, encourage, and enable change. So much of safety is really about influence and change: trying to get leaders to change, trying to get employees to change their behaviors, and helping the organization to change its culture.

Therefore, the more tools and techniques that are available to the safety professional, the greater the chances of success in enabling change. And make no mistake about it; even under the best of circumstances, change can be very difficult and challenging.

A number of safety professionals have embraced the concepts of Human Performance Improvement (HPI), a field of organizational performance tools pioneered by Thomas Gilbert (Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance). One of the key elements to understanding and using HPI is developing an "HPI mindset." The underlying principles of HPI help to transition from the traditional "training is the answer," to "performance is the answer."

When reviewing the HPI model, it should be noted that the entire model is wrapped in change management, which is really at the crux of nearly every successful organizational endeavor. There are many tools, models, and processes for driving organizational change, but one of the most exciting tools we can use is called Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

The assumption of AI is simple: Every organization has something that works right; things that give it life when it is most alive, effective, and successful (which also describes what happens when there are high levels of engagement). AI identifies what is positive and connects it to ways that heighten energy and create a vision for change.

There is a term, positive revolution, initially coined by GTE to describe the impact of their work that resulted in significant and measurable increases in stock prices, employee morale, quality, customer relations, union-management relations, and more. AI was at the core of those changes, and inspired many other positive approaches to change.

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