A History of Blame

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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.

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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