Amazon's lack of safety culture

Time after time, internal documents and interviews with company insiders show, Amazon officials have ignored or overlooked signs that the company was overloading its fast-growing delivery network while eschewing the expansive sort of training and oversight provided by a legacy carrier like UPS.

Inside Documents Show How Amazon Chose Speed Over Safety in Building Its Delivery Network” by James BandlerPatricia Callahan and Doris Burke, ProPublica, Ken Bensinger and Caroline O’Donovan, BuzzFeed News
 Dec. 23, 3 p.m. EST

Great reporting on the purposeful decisions that led to an unsafe culture. I recommend everyone reading this.

“Those interviews, as well as internal documents, reveal how executives at a company that prides itself on starting every meeting with a safety tip repeatedly quashed or delayed safety initiatives out of concern that they could jeopardize its mission of satisfying customers with ever-faster delivery.”

It all starts with leaders walking-the-walk and paying more than lip service to principles. “delighting the customer” is a great goal, but there are other stakeholders, and employee safety is a higher principle.

This article really reinforces my opinion that while there may be useful tools we can learn from FAANG companies, by-and-large their cultures do not appear ones truly dedicated to safety, quality and excellence.

It bears repeating. If we made pharmaceuticals the same way Amazon or Facebook operated, we’d all be dead. Every-time I read about Alphabet getting involved in healthcare I become petrified. One only has to look at the safety record of Tesla (both in the factory and the safety of it’s automobile) to start feeling worried on what happens when you take the bad culture from Silicon Valley and apply it to other endeavors..

Yes…but…and

We have all had the first rule of brainstorming, “defer judgment,” drilled into us for years. The general rule of “When a person proposes an idea, don’t say, ‘Yes, but…’ to point out flaws in the idea; instead, say, ‘Yes, and…’” which is intended to get people to add to the original idea, has become almost a norm in business settings. We have all become improv actors.

That truism is probably not a good one though. It can lend to a fairly superficial approach. Yes we need to be beyond “Yes, but”, but “Yes, and” stifles creativity. The concept of “Yes, and” gives an illusion of moving forward, avoiding conflict, but also prevents truly diving in and exploring issues.

We need to combine the best aspects of criticism and ideation, “Yes…but…and.” I propose idea A, a colleague first addresses what she perceives to be a flaw in it, provides constructive feedback (this is the “but”), and then suggests a possible way to overcome or avoid the flaw, yielding Idea B (this is the “and”). Then you do the same: You acknowledge Idea B, provide a constructive critique, and develop a new, even more improved result. Others can jump in with their critiques and proposals during the process. This kind of constructive interaction encourages a deep cycle of critical dialogues that can lead to a coherent, breakthrough idea.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • When you see a weakness in the idea, don’t simply say, “This does not work.” Rather, first explain the problem and then propose an improvement that would make it work.
  • When you do not understand the idea, don’t simply say, “That’s unclear to me.” Instead, first point to the specific spot that is unclear and then propose possible alternative interpretations: “Do you mean X or Y?” This helps all participants to see more detailed options
  • When you like the idea, do not just take it as it is. Instead, search for possible improvements and then push forward to make it even better.
  • When you listen to someone’s critique of your idea,try to learn from it. Listen carefully to the critique, be curious, and wonder, “Why is my colleague suggesting this contrasting view that is not in line with what I see? Perhaps there is an even more powerful idea hidden behind our two perspectives.” The critique becomes a positive force, focusing the team on overcoming its weaknesses and enhancing the original idea.

Good decisions require creativity. But flexing our practices we can drive that in our interactions.

System failures are rarely due to the employee

Between January 2016 and May 2019, you recorded approximately 397 customer complaints related to container closure issues (e.g., approximately 60%), product separation, lack of effect and adverse events. Your quality unit failed to adequately review these complaints, identify trends, and implement effective CAPAs. During the inspection you explained that these lapses in quality system performance were due to underperforming staff, who had since been dismissed. In your response, you attributed these and other quality related issues to under staffing of the quality unit as your business expanded.

Your response is inadequate because you failed to appropriately address your quality unit not performing their required duties. Your firm must provide the quality unit with the appropriate authority, sufficient resources, and staff to carry out its responsibilities to consistently ensure drug quality.

FDA Warning Letter to Teligent Pharma, Inc. dated 26-November-2019

Continuing the trend of making me petrified about generics, this warning letter is a roller coaster read. One big set of failures to actually investigate and apply appropriate resources to the quality unit. And then the management had the gall to blame the employees.

80+ years of quality principles ignored. I personally thought the FDA was being overly nice.

There are basically three questions to answer:

  • Do you have a properly established, staffed, and managed Quality Unit?
  • Does your Quality Unit have appropriate responsibilities and authority?
  • Does your Quality Unit have access to the data it needs to make informed decisions?

New Report Exposes MBTA’s “Questionable” Approach to Safety

A “debilitated” safety department and too-thin maintenance crews are just two of the revelations surfaced by a new report on the MBTA’s safety culture.

Read on www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2019/12/09/mbta-safety-report/

Let’s cut right to the heart of the report’s recommendations:

The panel makes six policy recommendations that are intended “to move the organization to a place where safety is a priority and is culturally integrated into every aspect of their mission.” They include establishing better safety performance indicators, identifying the areas where maintenance is being deferred, implementing stronger data collection, and strengthening the MBTA’s leadership team with “more seasoned” transit professionals.

Where does that seem familiar?