Thanks to my Value Capture colleague Vickie Pisowicz for pointing me to a video of some remarks made by the late Paul H. O'Neill, Sr. in 2016. The occasion was Mr. O'Neill being awarded the first Lifetime Achievement Award by The W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness at Columbia Business School.

"On October 25, 2016, the Deming Center honored Paul O’Neill, 72nd secretary of the US Treasury, with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Together with the Deming Cup for Operational Excellence, this award represents Columbia Business School’s drive to honor leaders who not only promote excellence in operations, but also, create lasting impact through the practice of their leadership."

In his remarks, Mr. O'Neill said that he wasn't done yet, as he was still driven to help improve worker safety in healthcare, as he had done as CEO of Alcoa.


Starting at 5:27 in the video, Mr. O'Neill said:

"I must tell you, when Nelson called me to tell me about this [award], I wanted to push back a little bit and say, ‘You know Nelson, I’m not done yet.’”

“This lifetime achievement [award]… I’m not done yet. I’m still out there pushing every day to get people to adopt what I know are ideas that can, in so many ways, liberate the people in our society."

I love the way he stated that, the need to liberate people from unsafe conditions. Strongly stated, as it should be. Back to his remarks:

"I’m going to tell you one factoid that drives me crazy. The lost workday rate at Alcoa last week was 0.1."

alcoa lost workday performance

"And the OSHA recordable numbers for health and medical caregivers, that is to say people who work in our hospitals and medical care clinics, the OSHA rate is over seven.

It is the most dangerous industry in our society.

And it’s an example of a place that’s just mind-boggling that when you know that it’s possible to create an injury-free workplace, that across this country in health and medical care institutions were 30 or 40 or 50 times worse than a metal company — there’s no reason for that.

So it’s one of the things that keeps me going every day to go pound on… and I tell you why it’s important for you because this is something that’s embedded in the Deming principles, organizations are either habitually excellent or they’re not.

So if you can find an organization that has a workplace injury rate that’s 50 times worse than, I’m sure, Honeywell and Pepsi, you really better be fearful about what else they do if they’re not good at taking care of their own people — look out!"

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