Better Days

Quality management system creation and implementation

Blame is Lame


            I work with multiple companies seeking to gain or keep certification to one of the ISO standards.  Some just want to piece together the guidance the standards offer in order to achieve a higher level of excellence.  Regardless, every organization wants to eliminate mistakes, especially those that keep happening,  So, how do the successful ones navigate the old “Well, if they (fill in the blank for who “they” is) would just … (again, fill in the blank with whatever.)” syndrome. 

I recommend taking lessons from those who are less successful first.  For example, I am continually baffled by organizations that label a single fault on almost every mistake or issue as:

“Human Error”  

            A review of corrective actions filed in most of those organizations shows an overwhelming choice to correct problems by “retraining employees”.  Blame on the individual may seem like an easy fix, but in organizations where that is the primary response, I honestly see very slow progress, and in two cases, I saw backward progress, to include loss of business and increases in other failures, like a higher rate of injuries.

            There is a saying that encourages us all to note:  “when you point a finger there are three fingers pointing back at you”.

          According to Prateek Agarwal, an author for, “The origin of this saying is the observation of our physical structure.  Try pointing your index finger at anything and discover your middle, ring and little fingers pointing right back at you; three fingers pointing back at you for each finger pointed at anyone else.
          “Of course, the idea is to look within yourself for the faults before you start pointing them out in others.”

            I wonder why this habit of blame continues.  As professionals and human beings blessed with the power to think, surely we understand how blame can get in the way of success in any endeavor.  And if we continue to have to retrain people, why aren’t we looking at resolving our training process, which appears to be ineffective, rather than blaming our people?

            The ISO 9001 standard establishes another way to approach problems, and it comes from research and feedback on genuine success stories.  Get blame and emotion out of the way, and use a more “scientific” approach.

This tried and true model uses methodology, team input, unbiased observations and data collection.  I find that the organizations that use a true root cause analysis method are far more practiced at eliminating and preventing problems, not just solving one-time issues.  They are far more likely to exceed their goals, partly because they remove obstacles and partly because they gain support from people who have had a chance to participate in the process.  People who have a voice in the improvement of their work environment find even MORE ways to improve.

For tips on solving problems using methodologies, you can check out Effective Problem Solving methodologies on TapasForLife or other sources related to the ISO standards.

            So how have you conquered blame from disrupting your organization’s success, or your own success?

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