When things go bad, people have a tendency to want to blame folks. It is a bad habit, but people do it anyway.
When I was much younger, I had trouble shouldering responsibility. When things went wrong, I didn’t want to take the blame. I tried to think of a million excuses. I was convinced that there were always multitudes of factors (to blame), which were out-of-my-control. Nothing was ever my fault. Unfortunately, it undermined other people’s trust in me, and stifled my ability to grow.
Now that I’m much older and wiser, I don’t mind shouldering the blame for stuff. Even if something wasn’t my fault, I’ll take it. Go ahead. This is because I’ve come to the realization that blaming a person is value-less. What really matters is results.
This all started with some advice from a mentor of mine: “Don’t blame a person. It doesn’t fix anything. You can’t fix a person or expect to find/make perfect people. Instead, create processes to insulate against mistakes.” When you do that, it takes the blame off-of people and makes it easier to focus on the root-cause and solution.
Also, I’ve found that responsible people are much more supportive of resolving a problem, especially if they don’t have to spend arbitrary amounts of time resolving blame & defending against accusations.
When “blaming a process” doesn’t work
I’ve talked about this concept with nearly every manager and leader that I’ve worked-with. It didn’t take long before I found someone who didn’t like the idea of [blaming a process instead of a person]. Here is why: Imagine that I was the guy who came up with the process, or worse: maybe I’m the guy in-charge and I don’t have a process at all. I am probably going to feel responsible for the process and therefore, when you blame the process, I might feel like I am being blamed. Right? Like, I’m the idiot who didn’t come-up-with a flawless process. So I guess everything must be my fault.
The root-cause of this debacle is 1) people still focusing on blaming people and 2) the impression that the process is owned by one person rather than the entire group, and maybe 3) the fallacy that a process could be perfect and therefore would never need any adjustments, ever.
A more sustainable approach would be to drop these three problems. Try the opposites: 1) Insist that a problem is the result of flawed processes. 2) A process is owned by everyone (not the opposite! People are not owned by the process). 3) The process will never be perfect. Therefore, you must nurture it: review, revise and improve it regularly.
When you stick with this, then it really doesn’t matter if the next problem is your fault or someone else. Let’s just review our process, and fix it. Of course perfection is nice, but it is probably unrealistic. It is better to have a means to fix problems quickly and reliably. Let the people focus on doing their jobs.