My objective here is to give you a pretty good idea of what would be likely to happen if we were to work together on a driver behaviour management project.
The most successful approach is to address the whole shebang of driving within your business. So that’s what I’m outlining here.
However, you may want me to consult with you on just one aspect of the whole. That’s not normally an approach I’d recommend, but I understand that you may be more comfortable with that until I’ve demonstrated the value of my consulting.
Three integrated parts
A typical project would have three basic parts:
- Data collection, analysis and diagnosis
Although I’m presenting them here as distinct parts for clarity and convenience, it’s important to emphasise that, in practice, these parts overlap and merge. To be effective, the project must work as an integrated whole rather than as separate phases. I’ll say more about that as we work through the parts.
1: Data collection, analysis and diagnosis
The questionnaire completed by clients at the exploratory stage and the discussions prior to my being hired often reveal that little is known about the current situation in the business with regard to managing driver behaviour. So the first stage is normally to flesh out the details.
I need to collect and analyse some numbers but it’s also important to get qualitative data by communicating with some drivers and managers. And it’s important to assess the competence and attitude of drivers by various means.
Data collection and analysis form the foundation of any further work in your business. We would have established what you want to achieve—your destination—before we started the project. But you can’t know in which direction to head, and how far you’ve got to travel to reach that destination, unless you know where you’re starting from.
If you read my free report, you’ll find that the most common mistake in this whole business of managing driver behaviour is missing out this first part altogether. Many businesses go ahead and buy “solutions” before they’ve clearly identified their problems. That’s as daft as trying to buy a travel ticket without knowing your departure point. Yet there are many suppliers of “solutions” who’ll gladly sell you whatever you ask for (and not tell you how daft that is).
Amongst those businesses that do some analysis, there’s another common mistake. They do the analysis as a discrete stage, at just the beginning of a project, and then stop the process. They draw a line in the sand and then rigidly apply measures that fit with that initial analysis.
My experience is that you never really have enough information at the outset. As the project proceeds, and as interventions are taking place, I expect to discover further significant aspects (some of them surprising or unexpected) and, in response, to adjust what gets implemented. To revisit a previously-used navigation metaphor, you may have your intended course plotted on the chart but you still have to keep checking the compass and make adjustments for changes in wind and tide (it’s a pre-GPS metaphor).
So data collection, analysis and diagnosis is actually something that runs throughout a project, with the bulk of it taking place at the beginning.
2: Driver behaviour improvement
This part of the project is the bit that tends to attract most attention from the uniformed, to the extent that it’s often mistaken for the whole thing. In truth, it’s only part of the whole and should not be considered to be any more important than parts 1 and 3.
In those common cases where part 1 gets neglected, what happens in this part of a project is either the result of unsubstantiated guesses or copycat common practice. Obviously, I don’t subscribe to those approaches. My aim here is to ensure that the optimum actions are taken to reach the desired destination in the most effective and economical manner.
The mix of interventions and the specific targeting of those interventions vary from one project to another. But all are likely to include:
- addressing the culture of the business, its policies, protocols and procedures;
- working with managers to help them be more effective in managing the behaviour of the drivers they’re responsible for;
- working with drivers to improve their behaviour.
Interventions may be internally generated and delivered, or bought in from external suppliers, depending on the nature of the project and the client. Achieving the optimum (i.e. most cost-effective) balance in this is an important aspect of my consulting.
Many attempts at improving business performance (not just in driving) fail or are largely ineffective because a “one-shot” approach is adopted. Effective improvement is a process, not an event. It’s about achieving the desired result that we agreed on before the project started within a predetermined time-frame. That requires an approach that’s flexible and responsive to continuing data gathering and analysis (i.e. evaluation). The most appropriate mix and frequency of interventions and the people who require most or least attention may prove to be different from initial expectations.
3: Maintenance—keeping the ball rolling
Once the objectives of the improvement project have been achieved, it’s important to give consideration to the maintenance of the improvement. You don’t want to waste the momentum you’ve built up. Long-term monitoring of performance will indicate when “nudges” are likely to be required, for example through a continuing educational programme and periodic reviews, and appropriate incentives and disincentives may need to be implemented.
That much applies to the people who went through the original improvement project. But we also need to accommodate new people, acquired through expansion or staff turnover, and bring them up to speed in the project.
If preparations are not made early on, there is a danger that all the improvements made during the initial project could, over time, be lost as performance regresses to the historical mean (which is what tends to happen with typical “one-shot” training programmes).
Rather than abruptly terminating our collaboration on completion of the initial improvement project, it’s more productive to switch to a “maintenance” relationship. This would invariably involve much less contact time than the initial project and, where solid driver behaviour management skills have been developed within the business, may take the form of a minimal mentoring role.
That’s a typical driver behaviour management project, then. Which we might work on together. But how would we know whether we have a match made in heaven or a hellish mismatch? There’s a process for that.