I must now insist that the enemy is not people. Rather, it is a point of view and one that attacks all of us, like an invisible germ, and distorts our outlook. It must be exorcised absolutely and completely, leaving no trace to multiply and reinfect us...Thomas Gilbert
As long as we personalize problems – think about them only in terms of who is at fault – we’re going to continue to have them, because the causes more likely reside in the system than in a person. Blaming people is a low-yield strategy for improvement; the biggest opportunities, the biggest leverage, lie in improving our work processes. Brian L. Joiner
Individuals, teams and whole departments blaming each other, and forming “silos” and “castles with moats” is arguably the biggest waste of organizational energy and an “invisible germ” that distorts our outlook. No individual or team can solve a problem until they accept responsibility for it – or at least for those aspects of the problem that are under their control.
This philosophy is very relevant in industry today because of us and them cultures, and the need to change from a security from the company or the union philosophy to a security through performance philosophy. Feelings of anger and betrayal must be dealt with before teams or individuals can get into a problem-solving mode. As Peter Drucker said: It does not matter whether the worker wants responsibility or not. The enterprise must demand it of him. This can be very difficult, as many employees in large organizations are survivors in long-running wars, a few of the most popular are:
- Maintenance versus Production
- Marketing versus Distribution
- Production versus Marketing
- Management versus The Unions
- Head Office versus The Branches
People are not incompetent: problems arise because the essential components and systems of which they are a part have not been properly designed. In other words, given the right environment, people will perform. Encouraging people to focus on the essential components of team performance concentrates their efforts on addressing problems, rather than fixing blame and trying to change people. Engineering a work environment conducive to team performance will get widespread support, and will make teams more successful.
If we are going to survive in the future, (says Mark Samuel), we must find ways to operationalize and integrate accountability as a core value. We must create an environment where we can count on one another and most of all where we can count on ourselves to achieve our desired outcomes.