No-one’s fault

We have a ‘no blame’ culture here

Oh really?! So it is no one’s fault that everything went tits-up?!

This is part of an interesting trend, of either blaming no one, or decapitating them.

It’s no-ones fault

In the 2010 six nations Rugby tournament Wales performed badly. The grand-slam winners of 2008 were fighting not to finish last. One of the games which saved them from the wooden spoon was the game against Scotland. Wales didn’t win the game so much as Scotland lost it, stupidly.

I don’t want to talk much about the game, but rather about Ryan Jones’, Wales’ captain, interview a few days later. “Do you treat this game as a win or as a loss?” he was asked. His answer was brilliant – “…it doesn’t matter… we treat all games the same way… we talk about what was good, and what was bad. And we name names because that is what you expect at this level“.

Yes, they point a finger.

They don’t point a finger because it personal, but because it is professional. Because it what you expect at this level of professionalism. You expect a player to be able to handle “you did that wrong”.

Otherwise, how would you expect people to learn? “oh we lost, but we all were great. Better luck next time”?! or maybe “someone forgot to follow the process”… who’s that someone? A garden gnome?

A rugby team, just like any other organisation is a learning organisation. Experience is important part of learning. Professionals are allowed to make mistakes. But not to repeat them – otherwise they are not so professional.

A clever man learns from his mistakes. A smart man learns from other people’s mistakes. Not everyone is as smart. And someone has to make a mistake in-order for others to learn from.

You’re fired

So now to the other trend, the opposite one – blaming and decapitating. A lot of organisations fire people for their mistakes. This includes army generals and politicians.

But if you fire them… how would they learn?! That army general won’t repeat that mistake. A new general might. That project manager would’ve absorbed the knowledge and build on it. A new one would need to ‘acquire’ new knowledge, in order to learn. Only to be fired.

I think Machiavelli said that an army general who made a mistake needs to be promoted – because he gained important experience.

Well, maybe he went a bit far, but the idea is right. As long as people are in-charge, as long as people are involved – errors would happen. You should do everything you can to avoid that. But the most important thing is to learn. To avoid hiding behind political correctness. To allow people to learn.

So next time you have a retrospective, or a lessons-learned session – put it all on the table. Don’t take it personally.


About snailonabike
I cycle, I run, I live, I have a family, I write code for a living, I have an opinion

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