In today’s Robservation, I want to give a little different view of something that I hear a lot of in the industrial world. That is a description of some organizations as having a “blame culture.” I have even heard it used to describe the reason organizations need to change (most often, I have heard it as a need to use this consultant or that consultant to “solve” our blame culture and “turn it around”).

But, what if, it’s NOT a “blame culture?” What if, when we look back at some of James Reason’s work like “Human Error” or Managing the Risks…” we really look at why he got so focused on organizations not blaming.

What if, as humans, our nature is to blame?  It can’t be me – so it must be you… I didn’t do it, so someone else must-have… I want to know who is responsible for this so they can be held accountable. The human ego is an interesting thing. And I think that Dr. Reason was spot on when he wrote about it in those early days of HOP.

What if that characteristic of human nature, that need to find blame, which is manageable by the way, is more responsible for the way an organization responds to failure than an actual “culture of blame?”

What if we are an organization of humans whose nature it is to blame, and we can be taught to look at things differently.  Instead of trying to fix a culture (which we all know ids pretty hard), we are trying to educate our leaders and then our workforce in the science-based attributes of success and failure. The difference is between errors, violations, and deviations and how they happen. In other words, the core understandings of any set of HOP concepts.

My Robservation is this… I have not once in my 25 years doing this seen an organization whose leaders have bought into and are using the language and behaviors of science-based HOP concepts – that has a “blame-culture.”  Not once – Zero – Zilch – Zip – Nada. And my experience is that this always outlives the leaders that brought it there. That sounds a lot like a sustainable change in culture to me. So if someone within or outside of your organization is accusing you of having a “blame culture,” look at the deployment and integration of HOP advanced error reduction concepts as a way to change that paradigm.

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