• kyle

When something goes wrong, who is to blame?

When something does not turn out as intended this is a common thought process for many people. Issues devolve into finger pointing and blame shifting until no good can be gleaned from the situation. The only possible outcomes from such a negative experience are detrimental to everyone involved. Hard feelings and loss of communication are common among people who handle mistakes through this obsolete thought process.

I strongly believe that we are incorrectly phrasing the entire process of dealing with mistakes. Instead of “Who?” we should be asking “What?”.

What is to blame for this mistake?

I’ll give you a hint, the “what” is most likely not a person or a department. The root cause is most likely hidden within the process. In fact, at the heart of most people problems lies a process problem.

For example, let’s say that your company is receiving customer complaints because parts are missing from your product. What is your first instinct about this issue? Is it a person that is not paying attention, not following instructions, or simply not caring about the situation? “Who” is it?

I believe the correct method to truly solve this problem is to ask questions about the process. What allowed these parts to be missing from the product? What can we adjust in the process to prevent incomplete product shipment? “What” is it?

The who-to-what thought process shift will dramatically improve the overall outcome of any problem situation. When people try to find out “who” the problem is, they become adversarial. In stark contrast, when people try to find out “what” the problem is, they team up against the problem itself.

In order to move from who-to-what, foster an environment where it is okay to make mistakes because they turn into learning experiences rather than blaming sessions. Problems solved in a “what” environment will be analyzed thoroughly and are unlikely to reoccur. More progress will be made and people will be brought together as they move towards common goals.

So, the next time a problem arises, what will your question be?

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