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Transport & Logistics

Yarra Trams’ safety journey: Why knowing one’s accountabilities is critical

15 May 2015, by Informa Insights

At the RISSB 2015 Rail Safety Conference, Yarra Trams Chief Executive Officer Clément Michel shared some insights about his career as well as a detailed discussion on how a successful transformational safety journey for the tram industry can be achieved.

The work that we don’t want to do

Shortly before assuming the Managing Director’s role of Paris’ Gare de Lyon Station in 1988, a SNCF commuter train crashed into a stationary outbound train killing more than 50 people and injuring just as many. When his predecessor showed him a box full of press materials, pictures and news clippings about this, one of the world’s biggest railway accidents, Clément Michel felt responsible for allowing that frightening accident to happen.

From then on, Michel has been inspired by ideas on how he could make people feel the accountabilities that have been given to them by their organisation. He believes that in an excellent safety culture, people will consistently reflect on the suggestive thought that he should not feel responsible for his actions but rather “feel accountable and therefore be driven to act”.

What needs to be fully understood

Michel highlighted that the heart of the issue lies in broken employee-manager relationships. Michel was quick to point out that regardless of how many new structures and new programs are established, there will always exist a high percentage of non-compliance to rules if employee-manager relationships are crumbling.

Michel stressed the real need to have a full understanding of the fact that in the world of franchising models, there are things managers and employees are both accountable for and that there is no excuse not to keep up with them. When one has the full scope of mandatory knowledge of these accountabilities, it will be easier to work around pertinent issues that include safety risks, customer interaction, punctuality, processes, leadership and everything else that compel people to do the right thing.

You can engineer a risk out only if you have somebody accountable to engineer it out. That is the transformation journey. —Clément Michel, CEO, Yarra Trams

What needs to be done

According to Yarra Trams CEO Clément Michel, working promptly on the system’s processes is vital if you want to ensure the timely transformational journey of your organisation. He emphasised the need to initially fix the rules and train the staff. He was quick to commend Yarra Trams for having the best simulator in the world for initial driving training. Michel explained how proper and continuous training can help enhance employees’ innate skills and talents, preparing them to do better in their assigned tasks.

Yarra Trams Executive Clément Michel in his talk at the 2015 Rail Safety Conference likewise pointed out the critical need to monitor all work assignments through automated completion processes and programs. An automated system similar to what Yarra Trams is currently using enables managers to observe how employees are performing in their designated tasks in proportion to the compliance rules as well as work specifications on a regular basis.

According to the head of the Yarra Trams, it is significant to note that to ensure the success of this system, it is vital to work on the controllable elements of the business—and not risking anything to chance—instead of planning or strategising on factors that are beyond human control. This could mean acquiring new facilities, decentralising maintenance, creation of bigger and more amenities, among others.

On transformational safety journey: What more can be done

Clément Michel concluded his talk with an impressive list on how the transformation journey can be successfully completed. Below are some of the most important points he enumerated:

– Accountabilities should be initially laid out on the table.
– Structures on key processes and leadership must be clearly established.
– The accountability metric system (accountability matrix) must be clear and fully understood by everyone in the organisation.
– All managers should be held fully accountable for their regular directive reports.
– Managers should be held accountable for the safe outcome and safety of their teams.

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Before joining Yarra Trams, Clément Michel was Keolis’ International Manager of Projects and the Managing Director of Gare de Lyon in Paris, which is considered one of the world’s busiest stations. Find out more about his work experience, his vision for the organisation, as well as a comprehensive overview of Yarra Trams on their website:

Related article: When rail meets road: Making trams safer with Clement Michel, Yarra Trams

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