A History of Blame

Blame — Article by Mary Poppendieck

Here’s a nice article by Mary Poppendieck, who is known for her work with Lean software development (including the book Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash) Mary writes on the history of blame and how the Lean mindset encourages us to do real problem solving instead of blaming.

“Note the thinking here: Problems are caused by people who don’t do their job well, so finding someone to blame is the first step to correcting problems.”

Even though Mary’s field is software, you’ll find something to learn in her article, as she talks about the history in terms of manufacturing and engineering.

Why is blame so common in any human system? It’s pretty well hard wired into us — Koko the Gorilla, who learned sign language, once blamed her pet cat (yes, it’s true, read about it here). Little kids quickly learn to blame, it’s one of the first things they do with their communications abilities.

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In business, why can’t we evolve past gorillas and children? Why do we normally point the finger of blame when something goes wrong, instead of looking at the system and systemic causes?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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