Working effectively with a system, and working it well, is no trivial achievement. It means that somebody has been able to take a complex set of rules and instructions, internalised this, tied it into his or her own experience and is able to act upon it succesfully. Phew... try to program that into a computer!

Working well with the system is the bread and butter of your way of working, but it should not be trivialised. Recognising and rewarding this will establish this way of working as a desirable state. If you do not recognise or reward it, people will see working with the system as dull, boring and unattractive.

What are you appreciating

In this area, you are rewarding the fact that people are actually making the system work! And this is no trivial thing! This is where 99.99999% of the safety your organization provides is actually produced. It is so easy to have all the recognition go to the people who make the improvements or handle special situations but really.... most of the safety is actually produced by people actively using and applying the system. So, what you are rewarding here are qualities like discipline, perseverence, accuracy, consistency and also.... openness in learning. Working a system well does not happen in one day. It requires many moments of learning, moments whereby somebody initially does not know how to do something well. Only people who are open at that moment, learn, and then apply their lessons will become experts. This is what should be recognized!

How you are appreciating

This skill should be rewarded all the time. Acknowledge operational excellence and consistency, pay attention to the quiet person who effectively does his rounds instead of always paying attention to the more extroverted person who is continuously working on the special cases.  Rewarding in this area is a key responsiblity of supervisors and senior management.

In this situation, the thing to guard against is the "drone-trap". You are not rewarding or condoning the mindless following of rules and regulations. No! You are rewarding the personal qualities of somebody who is willing to apply and commit himself to apply best practices to the best of his or her abilities. That is not the job of a drone or a rule-follower, but is the job of an expert.

The airline industry does this well. To them, procedures are to be used by well-trained professionals. In industry and other areas, procedures are sometimes seen as "training materials to be used untill you are an expert". This approach actually supports the view that rules are for beginners or rule-followers....