Thursday, August 10, 2006

Make sure they feel the bus go bump bump on its way over you

It’s a well known fact that taking responsibility for your mistakes is one of those easy to do behaviors, but it’s seldom done. People are worried about the consequences of accepting their errors which then prevents embracing a solution to the original cause of the mistake. It was definitely something that I learned to do and it made a big difference in my performance.

If taking responsibility for your mistakes is a painful process, here’s something that will make your head spin.

Take the blame for a problem even when it’s not your fault. This is what I mean by let the bus ride right over you, versus letting everyone jockey to avoid going under the bus.

Think about musical chairs, one seat is missing. Everyone is focused on getting a seat. I realize it’s a game, but if you watch people play they are so focused on finding a chair. Imagine if the goal was to figure out how solve the problem of being one chair short. You have X people focused on producing another chair versus X people focusing on the closest chair to them. X times greater focus on finding one chair.

If you’re trying to solve a problem whether it is human, process, or external in nature the best way to get to the problem solving process is to skip the blame process. Some organizations don’t play the blame game, others do.

If you find yourself in one of the blame game companies then you need to throw yourself under the bus. This is how you will be able to fix tons of problems in a short amount of time. If everyone is looking to avoid blame they aren’t going to be thinking about how to fix the problem. The solution might show a personnel training gap or a fault in a process that someone was responsible for creating. People inherently don’t like to make a mistake which then makes it hard to solve an issue if they feel it will bring a negative spotlight on them. Takeaway the potential for a spotlight and they are more comfortable working on the problem.

That’s why it’s critical to make sure they feel the bump bump, when you take the blame and throw yourself under the bus you want to make sure that everyone feels (translation = everyone feels they are now safe) the problem (translation = bus = blame) run you right over. You’re the carcass (you took responsibility for the mistake, you’re in the spotlight) and now we can carry on with the postmortem.

The postmortem is where you will then be able to fix the issue because everyone is relaxed because someone else has taken the fall.

Problem gets solved and in the end that’s what it’s all about anyway.


Anonymous said...

Take enough blame Rob and then people start thinking you are incompetent, then they stop trusting you, listening to you and believing in what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous #1.

You have to be careful when considering whether or not to throw yourself under the bus.

Although its a noble thought, in reality not many organizations reward individuals for "taking one for the Gipper."

I agree with your comment that one should take responsibility for one's actions. I also think it's not prudent to highlight the faults of others - Corporate Assassins who live by the sword will eventually die by the sword.

To take the hit for someone else's mistakes -- is a mistake.

The key is to move beyond the fingerpointing by acknowledging a mistake has been made and quickly engaging others in solving it by focusing on the future and not the past....