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The way to be safe is never to be secure.



Aservice revolution like the one that was achieved at UCLA can occur only on a platform of operational excellence. UCLA grounds its service success in a commitment to the safety of its staff members, patients, and families. Although it is not always a conscious consideration, every business leader shares the common challenge of providing for the safety and security of the business's stakeholders. Often leaders underestimate the significance of safety, so the chapters that follow offer an opportunity to ensure that safety is always a relevant and monitored aspect of daily business decisions.

Clearly, the focus on safety in healthcare, the auto industry, food service, and aviation exceeds that in most other industries. Given healthcare's rather unique interest in public safety, some readers might disconnect from this involved level of conversation about safety management. In the event that you believe that your attention to safety does not need to be on a par with that in healthcare, I would encourage you to read these chapters from the perspective of leadership lessons that you can apply to change facilitation or human performance management.

Fundamentally, safety must come before everything else for companies to even have a chance to serve customers or sustain success. In 1943, Abraham Maslow theorized that human beings are motivated to fulfill an escalating hierarchy of needs, with safety concerns being among the more primitive and basic aspects of human existence. Although Maslow focused on what drives human behavior, his theory also offers insights into fundamental aspects of successful business leadership.

While business leaders talk a lot about the importance of staff empowerment, the customer experience, consumer loyalty, employee innovation, or even social networking, Maslow's theory suggests that none of these higher-level objectives can be achieved unless employees and customers understand that their safety is unequivocally protected. This was the case for Jennifer Fine, whose 18-month-old daughter Ella was cared for in an intensive-care unit at UCLA. Jennifer notes, "The overall care of my daughter was outstanding at UCLA; however, their concern for her safety was paramount. Given that my daughter was in an isolation bubble, the hospital staff restricted contact with everyone, including my husband, who had recently donated part of his liver to Ella. While I felt that this restriction was unnecessary at the time, I now realize that UCLA safeguarded our daughter by overruling our wishes for my husband to be able to visit with us in the ICU."

We have all been exposed to conventional wisdom and common-sense slogans like "safety first"; however, real business practices give credence to humorist Will Rogers's observation that "common sense ain't so common." In fact, during difficult economic times, it is not unusual to see business owners cut back on safety expenditures that may ...

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