Look carefully at the pictures above. Those little objects you see on the side of the building – they’re actually people. Window washers to be exact. Hanging down the side of a 55-storey building with only a rope and a body harness saving each one from the force of gravity!
I took this picture a few months ago when I was working in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It caught my attention because well … it didn’t look very safe, and also because I got nervous just watching the men swing from side to side against the glass walls. Eventually I wandered over to the crew and found myself in conversation with the team leader. “Isn’t this unsafe,” I ventured. “It is if you fall ,” responded the young man with a grin. He must have seen the look of horror on my face because he hastened to add, “But we take precautions.” He continued, “The men work in teams of three, and before they launch their ropes and harnesses from the top of the building, each of them goes through a 7-point checklist inspecting both their own equipment as well as the equipment of their two teammates.” “We have to,” he carried on. “We can’t afford to make a mistake. In other jobs, if you slip up, it’s not a big deal, you can fix it. In this job, the outcome of just one misstep is serious injury or even death. So we take consistent and methodical steps to ensure no errors.”
Hopefully very few of you reading have jobs where the outcome of a single misstep is serious injury or death. But … no matter what industry or work environment you’re in, you too have certain activities that are critical to the long-term success and well-being of your organization.
- Do you know the critical activities in your organization – the ones where even one misstep could bring your organization crashing down?
- What consistent and methodical steps are you taking to ensure that the misstep does not occur?
As a leader, these are risks you should be thinking about. I’d love to hear your responses to these two questions.