Volume 131, February 2014: Blame

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, 2014 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Before I point outward, I need to look inward at how I contributed to this.” – Chris Clark, Tennessee Hospital Association

In our teaching at the Center for Continuous Improvement, we continually reminded ourselves that people generally do not come to work thinking, “what can I mess up today?” They come to work hoping to do their best, in systems and processes that are broken. All their “best efforts” will not overcome poor quality.

Pushing people to achieve better quality, have zero defects, and improve productivity ties to a faulty assumption that if the workers would just work harder, things would improve. The fact is that defects, high costs, and mistakes come from the “system,” which is management’s responsibility.

W. Edwards Deming started out proclaiming that 85% of the problems in the workplace were due to systems and 15% due to people issues. By the time he ended his teaching, the formula had changed to 96% of the problems due to systems, with only 4% due to people.

Change the language from “blame” to “contribution.“ All behavior occurs within a system, all parts of which are, by nature, interdependent. Each person involved has made a contribution to the problem and owns some responsibility. Begin exploring problems in that way.

Practice Point

How can you get people to stop blaming each other? Teach them (by modeling) to replace “Who did this?” with “What process created this result?” And “What part in that process did I play?” Fill your language with what and how questions, not who and why. Try this the next time you hear blaming words – move from an individual to a process focus.


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