Whose Fault Is It? Create Accountability, Not Blame
There’s a big difference between accountability and blame. Holding someone accountable means giving them the duty and responsibility to ensure problems don’t arise. It’s a constructive process that empowers people. Blame is the opposite. It’s destructive. You can’t prevent what has already happened, so placing blame only makes the situation worse. It’s a distinction every factory should look at more closely, because it shapes manufacturing culture in a big way.
Shaping a culture of accountability
An accountable culture is an analytical one; a culture of blame is an emotional one. Which do you want in your factory? Accountability instead of blame is the difference between fixing problems and replacing people. Think about it from the context of an example:
An engine keeps overheating. Failure modes and effects analysis shows lack of proper lubrication as the primary cause. This is the machine operator’s job.
You can blame the operator for doing a poor job of maintaining their machine and reprimand them to do a better job. But what if the problem keeps happening? Do you fire the operator and find a new one? You might, but it’s not constructive.
Consider the accountability approach. The failure modes and effects analysis shows a problem. Talk with the operator about the problem to understand how and why it’s arising. Correct any incorrect processes or actions they may be taking. Help them become better and if they’re unwilling to, then replace them.
The difference is stark. In a blame focused culture, the mission is to hold someone responsible. In a culture of accountability, it’s to help the responsible person address the problem. People aren’t the problem ― they’re the means to a solution. It’s not about who’s wrong; it’s about what’s wrong. Most importantly, accountability drives investigation into solutions, rather than focusing on assumptions.
How to shift your mindset
The next time a problem arises, take a moment to consider your approach. Are you looking to hold someone responsible or are you intent on fixing the problem? Adjust yourself to the latter. Then, consider how to empower others to remedy the issue.
Changing culture and mindset from blame to accountability isn’t easy, but it is possible. It takes a reevaluation of perspective in almost any situation involving problems. Consider the following paradigm shifts:
- Punishment becomes a learning opportunity
- Management by fear becomes management by empowerment
- Individual struggles become group focuses
- Shortcomings are helped; successes are exalted
Learning to create accountability instead of blame means becoming an optimist. Find the silver lining in the face of a problem and understand how to improve in a way that prevents that particular raincloud from arising again.
Go against the grain
It’s human nature to assign blame when something goes wrong. It’s also human nature to get upset and want to express anger or disappointment. But these emotions contribute to a culture of blame. Instead, go against the grain in the quest to instill accountability. Don’t admonish the person; inspect the problem. It may feel unnatural at first, but it’s the first step toward a better culture – one more equipped to recognize and solve problems, instead of becoming frustrated over them.