This one got stuck in the “stuff to blog about” pile for a few months, but HBR published a gem of an article called “How To Stop the Blame Game.”
Dr. Deming always talked about how destructive blame could be, saying:
“American management is quick to assign blame to an individual when the problem, is in fact, a fault in the system.” (source)
Blaming others seems to be human nature, so we have to work hard to not blame. From the HBR piece:
Playing the blame game never works. A deep set of research shows that people who blame others for their mistakes lose status, learn less, and perform worse relative to those who own up to their mistakes. Research also shows that the same applies for organizations. Groups and organizations with a rampant culture of blame have a serious disadvantage when it comes to creativity, learning, innovation, and productive risk-taking.
As Dan Pink writes and says, the business world is really good as ignoring scientific research about management and psychology. Research shows blame doesn’t work, yet most traditional managers will blame people in their organization or blame other organizations. We don’t have “evidence-based management” as Pink calls it (Bob Sutton also uses this phrase).
The HBR piece talks about a number of interesting themes, including:
- How blame is contagious
- How blame tends to roll downhill (the “kick the dog” phenomenon)
The article spells out some steps – easier said than done (and check out the article for the full descriptions):
- Don’t blame others for your mistakes
- When you do blame, do so constructively
- Set an example by confidently taking ownership for failures
- Always focus on learning
- Reward people for making mistakes
Again, easier said than done. Do your organizations, whether they are practicing Lean or not, try to reduce blame or use any of the recommendations of the HBR author?
I’m not sure, to the 2nd bullet point, how you can blame “constructively”?? Examples of that, anyone?
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