How coaching can support ‘Continuous learning’ in the nuclear sector

This final blog in the series is about the third category of WANO traits – ‘Management systems’, and in particular the role of coaching in continuous learning. The coaching mindset is one of continuous learning, and coaching models provide a framework for the process. Coaching skills are also of real value when gathering operating experience feedback.

My last three blogs (see links below) have been about non-directive coaching and how it’s relevant to the nuclear sector. I’ve used the WANO ‘Traits of a Healthy Nuclear Safety Culture’ to draw parallels between those traits and the mindset, skills and tools of coaching. This final blog in the series is about the third category of WANO traits – ‘Management systems’, and in particular the role of coaching in continuous learning. The coaching mindset is one of continuous learning, and coaching models provide a framework for the process. Coaching skills are also of real value when gathering operating experience feedback.

The coaching conversation – a framework for continuous learning

As mentioned in my first blog on this topic, coaching is effectively a conversation, but one with a specific structure, purpose ……. and shape. The structure, purpose and shape are designed to facilitate the process of continuous learning.

‘DIAMOND’ CONVERSATIONS- a coaching model

At Beehive we describe coaching conversations as diamond conversations for two reasons:

OSCAR Coaching Model, used with kind permission of Worth Learning, showing the diamond shape of a coaching conversation.
The OSCAR Coaching Model, used with kind permission of Worth Learning, showing the diamond shape of a coaching conversation.
  1. Partly because, taking the OSCAR Model we use as an example, they begin with a sharp focus on a clear outcome; they expand to consider the current situation, they expand further as choices and consequences are considered before narrowing the focus down to a point of action and review
  2. But mainly because coaching conversations are priceless.

the ‘Three Whats’ Model of Review

Another example of a coaching-based, continuous learning model is this simple process of three open questions, the Three Whats. It’s a quick and dirty approach to gaining operating experience feedback on the go:

  1. What? (ie what happened, simple description)
  2. So What? (ie so what are the implications of what happened? What worked, what didn’t, what impact will this have?)
  3. Now What? (ie now what do we do differently next time?)

It’s not in-depth or complicated, but it might just be enough to stop people repeating unhelpful actions or behaviours, start improving the process, and give those people working a voice so their thoughts, feelings, experiences and expertise can be taken into account. And it encapsulates the continuous learning process – taking time to reflect and review after a task rather than mindlessly doing what’s been done before.

In summary….how coaching supports a healthy nuclear safety culture

Coaching in organisational life

Coaching has become a standard feature of organisational life, recognised as good management practice across sectors and organisations. Research has shown that coaching has a significant impact on performance, skills, well-being, coping work attitudes, and goal directed self-regulation, and can improve the functioning of individuals in organisations.

The role of coaching in health and safety

In the past rules, regulations, process and procedure have been the dominant modalities through which health and safety has been delivered. The overarching intention has been to achieve compliance. But compliance is no longer enough. Developments in safety thinking including ISO 45001 show that the next big shifts in the field of health and safety will be cultural, where compliance is no longer aspirational but a minimum. There’s a growing awareness that technical skills and capability aren’t enough to supervise or lead in a safety critical industry, and bodies like IOSH have recognised the value and adopted coaching with enthusiasm as you can see below.

Coaching and the WANO traits

My intention in these blogs is not to suggest that coaching skills are unique to nuclear – coaching skills are generic and transferable; just good communication skills, good management practice. My intention is more to show how closely the mindset, skills and values of the discipline of coaching match the WANO traits. Bitter experience has shown that shortfalls of these traits contribute to plant events, and when they’re present they contribute to a positive safety culture. Therefore, through a simple process of logical deduction, developing coaching as an activity and skill set can help an organisation move closer to a healthy nuclear safety culture.

‘Coaching to support a Healthy Nuclear safety Culture’ one-day workshop

Our nuclear workshop, designed and delivered in partnership with the National Skills Academy Nuclear and with the help and feedback of nuclear organisations, is intended to give a taster, an introduction to coaching and how it might support your safety culture. We want to share what we know because we genuinely believe it can make a difference to nuclear safety. A one-day workshop won’t change the culture of a whole organisation directly. However, if you use the practical tools and skills you learn you can change the safety climate, and potentially improve everything from near miss reporting to contractor management and engagement. And who knows, that might be enough (though we’ll never know) to avert a disaster like Chernobyl.

Join us on June 12th

Join us on June 12th for our next one-day ‘Coaching for a Healthy Nuclear Safety Culture’ workshop. It’s been designed and delivered by Beehive in partnership with NSAN, the National Skills Academy Nuclear, and has NS4P endorsement. The aim is to provide a basic introduction to how coaching can support you and your organisation in building a healthy nuclear safety culture. Contact Stacey Balmer at stacey.balmer@nsan.co.uk for more details or to book your place.

Flier for the new ‘Coaching to support a healthy nuclear safety culture’ one-day workshop, designed and delivered by Beehive/b.SAFE in partnership with the National Skills Academy Nuclear


What can we learn about behavioural safety from America’s love of firearms?

Guns only keep you safe if you have the mindset and skills required to use them most effectively. At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective.

15793761-Illustration-of-shooting-turkey-Stock-Vector-gunOn a recent visit to Florida I made enquiries about learning to shoot a handgun. Not from any homicidal tendencies you understand, but because it’s something you can’t do over here. As I looked into it (during which I became more and more worried by how easy and cheap it was – free ladies days at the range, anyone? – and the lack of anything resembling checks or training!) I came across a video from an ex-marine who now trains civilians to use guns. It set me thinking about safety.

The video included footage from the dashcam of an armed policeman who’d been shot dead by a driver he’d stopped for a routine check. The video stated that after a recent mass shooting, sales of guns had increased because people were scared and believed that possessing a gun would keep them safe – if in danger they just pull it out and shoot. This, the ex-marine explained, is not the case for a number of reasons:

  • Having a gun can increase the danger, as an attacker could then feel justified in shooting first, or could take the gun off you to use against you
  • Even if you can hit the heart and head of your target every time on the range – most targets in the shooting ranges are person-shaped (!) – it does not help you in an attack situation – on average there is a three second window in which to act, and adrenaline means you forget everything in the terror of the moment
  • You may become over confident, taking greater risks because you feel safer
  • That the gun is just a tool and like any tool requires two things for it to be of use – the right mindset and the right skills.

By mindset he meant being clear about why you have a gun, the potential and limitations of it, how and when it should be used and how and when it shouldn’t. By skills he meant not just being able to point and shoot but being able to do so in the kind of situations you’d bought the gun for ie in the heat of the moment. This he described as being ‘combat’ not just ‘target’ ready, and his company was all about providing combat-ready training.

It occurred to me that safety management systems, regulations, processes and procedures can sometimes be viewed a little bit like having a gun. The fact that they are there leads people to believe that they’re safe – all they have to do is follow them, they may not think beyond them, they may take greater risks because of them, they may not be able to think beyond them in an emergency. In fact it’s not the systems, processes and procedures that keep people safe; they’re just the tools, and often blunt ones at that – no safety manual covers every possible situation and it’s the unforeseen ones that usually create the biggest problems, and if procedures aren’t fit for purpose they actually encourage the violations they’re there to reduce. It’s having the right mindset :

  • trustworthy
  • committed to the spirit not just slavish compliance to the letter of regulations
  • recognising that safety is created not by the processes but by the people who use them
  • being aware of both the importance and limitations of regulations etc
  • being accountable for your own behaviours and role in keeping people safe

– that makes the difference. And having the right skills:

  • ‘soft power’ skills that empower, build relationships and generate the required commitment
  • clarity of thought and power of communication
  • decision making
  • the ability to give (and receive) feedback constructively and hold self and others to account
  • leadership

that increases the efficacy of any system or process, even making up for imperfections.

At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective. It’s why in our three-day ‘Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshops we combine our one day ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – an introduction to human performance principles, models and tools – with a one-day ‘Coaching for Safety’ workshop – developing the non-directive mindset and skills required for one-to-one coaching – and either a ‘Team Coaching’ or ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ workshop – that increases the effectiveness, reach and power not just of human performance tools, but any safety management system, process or procedure.

I never did learn to shoot on my holiday. The ex-marine had no space available while I was there and his was the only company that offered the kind of training I felt confident in – the only person who really sounded like he knew what he was doing. But I will when I next go stateside. So if when I see you I say I’m packing, it may not be for a holiday……!

The next three-day ‘b.SAFE Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshop will be held at the Brathay Trust in Cumbria (@BrathayPD).

Nov 15th 2017 – ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – This meets the Nuclear Industry Standard but is relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 16th 2017 – ‘Coaching for Safety’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 17th 2017 – ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any apprentice, supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Each day stands alone but the three days are designed to build on and develop the understanding and applicability of the days before. For more information or for a place on our free safety culture seminar on Sept 15th contact me on sara@beecld.co.uk