Taking Responsibility for Mistakes – On the Field, and Off


Wildcats know they have room to improve — chicagotribune.com

Those of you who know me recognize me as a diehard Northwestern Wildcats fan. Yes, it's often a tortured existence.

Our football team is 3-0. That's nothing to get too excited about, but I do like hearing about the progress the team is making in all regards — including organizational dynamics. Yes, that and leadership apply in sports.

Northwestern is getting there by not just reveling in its sacks and touchdowns but acknowledging its flaws.

That's the key for any “Lean” organization — being able to admit mistakes and problems. That's the first step in process improvement. I'm just hoping Northwestern has fewer and fewer flaws to recognize each game…

“Guys came over to the sideline to take responsibility for missed tackles or not closing their gaps,” [Coach Pat Fitzgerald] said. “When you've got that, you have an opportunity to get it fixed. I think our program has a lot of trust.”

Responsibility. That's so much better than finger pointing and blaming. A leader (in this case, a head coach) can set the tone for what behavior they want in the organization.

What are you doing to set that tone in your organization?


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Wait a minute, did I read that correctly? Three and oh? Northwestern? Wow!

    And this while mighty U of M and OSU are having their butts handed to them on Saturdays.

    Good going Wildcats! Is there a Big Ten championship in their future? A Rose Bowl berth?


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