Blame Culture in Organisations

In this session I want to talk a little bit about a blame culture. Now, you might have been in an organisation where their organisation itself is very, very quick to blame an individual or a group when something happens or something goes wrong.

This particular way of dealing with an incident, is actually very counterproductive because everybody feels that they are not able to make mistakes they’re not able to take risks, they’re not able to move the organisation forward because they feel that if they do, they might get a smack in the back of the head – to put it bluntly.

But, the irony of a blame culture is that it shouldn’t exist. And the reason for that is that every incident or event that happens within an organisation is a systemic failure. Now, even if you go through and say that there was an operator error at the end of the process. If you were to look at it and say, well, let’s look at some of the other causes for it. Maybe there was a lack of training, maybe there was a lack of supervision, maybe there was a lack of maintenance of the parts that they were using; maybe they had faulty tools. There might be a whole range of other things.

I’ve talked  before about the Swiss-cheese effect. If you look at every incident within an organisation, you will note that each of those Swiss-cheese elements are a control within the organisation. And, as I’ve said before, I’ve now seen and my opinion and my experience has been that there’s never been a single point of failure within an event or an incident within an organisation. There is always multiple failures.

So why, do we have a blame culture? Why don’t we, as I’ve talked about in post-event analysis, why don’t we look at it and say:

“Hey, we as an organisation messed this up. We as an organisation need to learn from this. And we as an organisation can fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Sure, there might be some disciplinary things or some administrative things you need to do with the poor bunny who was at the end of the chain. But the reality is, if you look at it as a single point of failure, that failure is going to happen again, and again, and again. Because you are missing the opportunity to work out where the organisation has failed.

So lose the blame culture. And replace it with a no blame culture. And undertake post-event analysis that I’ve talked about in another blog. That’s all I’ve got for this session, as always, let’s be careful out there.

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