The management system is a blend of people, technology and process. All the pieces must fit together and work efficiently. Probably the most important design element is the visible accountability of everyone involved, which allows leadership to constantly review progress and ask questions about global opportunities and their closure. Let’s take a deeper look at each of the HUAA steps.
Heard. First, opportunities must be heard. That means key staff members (idea generators) must be on the lookout for opportunities at all times in all places. They must be active attendees at events that might produce an opportunity. For instance, a key mechanical engineer might be charged with going to meetings of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and even participating in groups developing industry guidance. A process safety management (PSM) specialist might attend meetings of AIChE’s Center for Chemical Process Safety and the Mary K. O’Connor Process Safety Center International Symposium and even volunteer to chair a working group. This PSM person also must keep up-to-date on, e. g., safety incidents occurring in the industry as well as changes to PSM and risk-management-plan rules, suggested or on the horizon.
After identifying a potential opportunity, the idea generator enters it into the HUAA management system. This involves explaining what the opportunity is and why it’s important to the organization (upside and downside). The person should be gathering opportunities and entering them all the time.
Understood. Once an idea is captured, the HUAA process must initiate a quality review by the right person at the right time. Inaction should generate escalation so ideas don’t await review for too long.
The reviewer acts as gatekeeper, evaluating the idea for applicability (understanding), and either rejecting or accepting it into the system. The person also provides a value and priority for any accepted idea. The next step is the acknowledgment of the idea.
Acknowledged. The gatekeeper communicates the decision to the initiator and documents it in the system. If the idea is rejected, recording closure comments and sending these to the initiator closes the communication loop — the initiator has spent time and energy entering the idea in the first place and believes it has merit, and so deserves such feedback. Documenting the reason for rejection is a great way of monitoring involvement and the quality of the process.
The gatekeeper then selects a leader, like a plant manager, to be responsible for the accepted idea. Assigning a senior manager is an essential part of this process. The individual must be someone with the resources, both human and monetary, and influence to address the opportunity. More importantly, the person must be accountable to see that these important opportunities are handled appropriately.
The gatekeeper also must ensure the idea is assigned a priority (importance) that takes into account severity, frequency, etc. Setting that priority simply may involve checking a box for big, medium or small, or may leverage the corporate risk-ranking matrix with severity and frequency. Severity must consider safety, environment, reputation, assets, etc., to properly compare one opportunity to another. Ideally, both current and future risk should be identified for each opportunity.
Up to this point, there’s been motion but no action. Knowledge or wisdom without action is wasted.
Actioned. This step is where we reap the rewards of the HUAA process. Creating an action plan to address the opportunity, assigning actions and tracking those actions to ensure everything is achieved on time and to quality allow realizing the opportunity quickly, effectively and efficiently. The responsible person can develop an action plan on how to address the assigned idea in as much detail desired, and can make as many subordinates as needed responsible for specific actions. The person must set firm deadlines for all actions to underscore that things must get done. Monitoring progress becomes easy, as does confirming the value is realized. Continual monitoring ensures the opportunity remains satisfied. (Maybe we should add another “A” for auditing to the HUAA process — that would make it HUAAA!)
The audit step covers two angles — ensuring changes continue to be embedded into the operation of a facility; and understanding who is making recommendations for opportunities, their quality, and acceptance and rejection rate. This allows a holistic view not only of the volume but also of the quality of opportunities and reviews. It can assist in identifying any weaknesses in your HUAA process. For instance:
• Are opportunities being documented effectively to allow the reviewer to understand?
• Are the reviewers rejecting opportunities because of a weakness in their knowledge of a specific area?
• Are there people who you would have expected to enter opportunities who never have?
• Are there people who consistently miss their deadlines for actions?
All these finding can help make your HUAA process even more effective.
A good HUAA process relies on people. People identify, review and implement the opportunities. You must choose the right listeners and properly motivate them. If they are too busy, not interested, not experienced enough, too experienced or lack an innovative spirit, the process will flounder. People without adequate experience, education or curiosity won’t spot global learnings, concerns and opportunities. Those with the right credentials must be vigilant and feed the HUAA process as if the organization’s future depends upon it. It may!