Blame the process not the people

One of the hardest things in business

“This is not a criticism of him. I’m saying something is off and we need to look at our process.” Those were my words in a recent operational review of service metrics. I was setting the expectation I wanted to improve our process for better results. I was not looking to blame an individual for what I found.

When results don’t match expectations do you or your business immediately look for who to blame? Do individuals involved in sub-par results immediately become defensive when discussing it? The blame game does have an attraction as it helps us feel like we’ve justified the event. Blaming others gives us a false security that we delivered a reasonable correction for the action. But really, is that the best approach if our real desire is a better performing team and productive employees?

Better approaches

I’m not suggesting we don’t hold people accountable for their actions and I’m not suggesting that actions don’t have consequences. But there are productive ways to problem solve that provide benefits to the business, the employees involved, and customers.

When results don’t match expectations if we first examine the process and then discuss improvement with our team, it does two things: First it prevents escalation of defensiveness, tempers, and accusations. Second, by focusing on the process, it encourages active participation from the team to find a solution.

The Oz Principle (Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman) suggests that victim mentality leads to blame which leads to lack of accountability and results. To move beyond victimization and blame, we must accept the problem to find solutions and take accountability. This mentality goes beyond the event of a failure to focus on future achievement rather than present punishment.

Results you want

Sometimes motivation comes from our desired outcomes. I want the entire team to feel responsible for our collective outcomes. As a leader of people, I want to take accountability for results the team produces. I want team members to feel satisfied and motivated in their work environment. I want to model a culture of respect for the individuals on my team and allow them to use their given talents to produce solutions for the business.

When processes fail to produce results, it is not an easy thing to discuss. In fact, I find it quite messy. People, emotions, job ratings, and accountability can get us locked in conversations that have nothing to do with the root of the problem and finding solutions. But good things happen to those who can rise above the muck, focus on the process, and bring out the best in people.

Onward and upward!

BTW – Who wrote those instructions in the candle warning graphics?😊

Photo credit – “Instructions” by Anders Sandeberg via Creative Commons –