I recently wrote about my journey becoming a leadership coach. Doing so reminded me of some of the key things I learned, and one in particular came to mind. Everyone comes to work with the intention to do a good job. People don’t go to work to screw up, and yet this isn’t how we always threat them.
Let me illustrate this with an example I learned from my boss at the time, Dan Mckeon. It was one of many things I learned from Dan. I was leading a software support organization and we set out to improve the quality of the systems. This was critical to improve operational performance and also to reduce cost. Each defect brought with it the cost of mitigating and resolving it. Millions of dollars a year.
A critical guiding principle
We established a guiding principle. Once we identified a defect, the root cause must be identified and fixed. This would ensure the defect didn’t occur again (and again). We reviewed all major defects to ensure we implemented root cause solutions. Soon after we began this process, some issues were root caused as a ‘people error’. Somebody had not followed the process and an issue resulted. It would have been easy to blame the person and move on. Assuming they wouldn’t do it again.
Dan didn’t follow this logic nor the root cause as a people error. He asked why the system or process allowed the person to make the error. In other words, how can we make the process people proof? This was a game changer, and I am convinced many defects were eliminated as a result.
The most important impact
Perhaps most importantly, it sent a clear message to the whole organization. We don’t blame each other when things go wrong. Instead, we figure out how to help the next person avoid the same problem. This may sound obvious and simple. The next time you find yourself upset at somebody don’t jump to the blame game. Instead, ask an important question. “What can we change to prevent anybody from making the same mistake?” Your team will appreciate you for doing it.