Over and over we revisit the phrase of “Blame the process, not the people,” and how this concept plays such a big role in Continuous Improvement. It’s very critical in that it allows us to ask the right questions and to make headway as a team to figure out problems and solutions, but sometimes we can get slowly sucked back into old ways. It’s not our fault, we’ve been trained to associate abilities with mistakes, but Lean and Continuous Improvement strives to change this. Here are some tips to help ensure that you are cultivating and sustaining a work space free of blame.
Put the spotlight on the process, not the people– The very first thing to do is to stray away from blame by asking the reason why a person did something a certain way. Stop searching for who did what wrong. Instead, invest time and energy dissecting a process and seeing in what ways it allows for ambiguity and mistakes. You must turn away from the idea that someone did something wrong, but rather look at that the process as wrong and that there’s an opportunity to correct it.
Respect a (person)’s capabilities– In order to have a blame-free environment, you must have respect the person, this includes respecting a persons capabilities. If an outcome is not desired or expected, searching for someone who is “guilty” is not respecting them in their role, nor is it respecting their capabilities to perform in their job. It is jumping to conclusions that they are inefficient or not “up to snuff.” When you look to the process first when there’s an issue, you are letting others know that it is not them and that you trust their capabilities.
Culture responsibility and accountability– When we are in an environment where we feel we do not have to protect ourselves with excuses, it becomes easier to feel more accountable and take responsibility when something does go wrong. Taking responsibility no longer becomes a burden because it no longer is seen as a reflection of one’s performance, which makes people more willing to pointing out areas of trouble, or mistakes that are made.
Engage others and their opinions– The way we shape and ask our questions when confronted with a mistake or issue gives people a feeling of where we place our blame. It’s important to ask questions that have to do with the process. Ask what they felt may have been ambiguous or confusing, or in what way could we have made the information more available or clear?
Remember, experimentation means just that, experimentation!– Sometimes when trying to solve a problem that seems similar to one before it, we get expectations for the results we want to see. Having expectations for our result doesn’t mean we question what someone “did” if the expectation is not met.
A no blame environment takes time, but it is do-able if it is made a priority! Strive to create a workplace culture that doesn’t look at someone as what they did wrong, but rather how a process allowed for that result and how the group can make improvements!