Tuesday, 24 November 2009

When things go wrong: No blame, as blame is counterproductive and damaging

Blame is counterproductive and damaging for several reasons:
  • it has a negative emotional impact on the person concerned, making them more likely to 'self-regulate' their future behaviour in a limiting way
  • it closes down the discussions that should result from mistakes
  • it shifts the spotlight away from analysis, learning and objectivity
  • it discourages other people in the business from taking any kind of risk, whatever the expected value.
If decisions are based on careful, objective consideration of probabilities and impacts, and the potential downside of a risk is accepted because of its positve overall value, then there should be no blame if this downside actually comes about.

Decision tools such as the decision tree create joint commitment to an action, so that no one person's position or reputation is on the line if things go wrong.  In effect, this approach transfers business risks from the individual decision maker, who has much to lose from downsides occurring, to the business as a whole, which can absorb the impacts of downsides ( both financial and reputational).

Good risk management is about being prepared for problems, which in turn helps to avoid a culture of blame.  By valuing control, analysis and objectivity, the focus can be kept on the problems that everyone in the business faces together.

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