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New Rules to the Old Blame Game.

New Rules to the Old Blame Game via Michelle Sugerman

The phrase ‘root cause analysis’ conjures a range of team responses from “Oh great, management is lookin’ to fire somebody!” to “Finally, we needed to get to the bottom of this months ago.”

After our business experiences a failed project or client facing effort, a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) or lessons learned meeting can easily turn into a gripe session or a ‘blame game’.   But, facilitated correctly, reviewing the details of what happened can yield deep understanding and specific actions required for repeating past successes, adding improvements for the next experience, and avoiding old mistakes.

Very few people enjoy admitting to mistakes; even fewer enjoy examining causes and effects of those mistakes.   Causes fall into many categories (communication, process, technology, tools, and training) and people responsible for those components can get angry or uncooperative if they feel they need to be defensive.   It is critical to balance the complexities of the activity:

• Focus on fact-finding rather than blaming people or departments.

• Brainstorm wildly without criticism, but stay on point and remain professional.

• Dig deep to reveal all of the core issues and keep the sensitive conversation confidential.

When defining impact, always consider tangibles like time, money, and people along with intangibles like reputation, team relationships, and potential risk. Keep asking ‘why’!   Don’t you smile when you hear a child asking ‘why’ repeatedly in response to an adult’s increasingly frustrated and cryptic answers?   Well, the goal of an RCA is to define the problem and its impact and then ask ‘why’ until the core problem(s) can be defined and an actionable list of fixes completed.   Pay close attention to the specific details and nuances.   For example:

• Defined Impact:   The March 16th legal communication (to be sent via email) intended for all 40,000 clients was not sent to 1750 clients resulting in fines of $800.

• Root Causes:   1750 email addresses were missing from the system and no process exists for adding new client email addresses

• Resulting Recommendation:   Create, train staff on, and implement a formal process for adding new email addresses.

Once the recovery is planned, it is time to remember forgiveness.   Some mistakes are extremely costly, and it is tempting to blame others for pain and damages.   Paul urges us to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.   Forgive … As a ‘Do unto Others …’ company we must live by different rules, especially when it is hard!   In fact, if we play the ‘blame game’ by different rules, we might actually learn from mistakes more quickly and more completely than others who respond with resentment or bitterness.  

Someone wrote in a book …“Do not withhold your mercy from me; may your love and your truth always protect me.”

Words of Wisdom “The point here is to move forward, to get the debate moving from fault and blame to solutions.”

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