Time to end the culture of blame?

Should managers pursue a policy of no-blame, or is finding the source of mistakes only natural?

by Peter Crush

It seems almost too good to be true – a workplace culture where no one is to blame – not even when things go wrong.

This is the rule Jeff Lawson, CEO at technology company Twilo, says he now uses.

The company, which provides the technology that tells people their Uber is on its way, has had its fair share of ups and downs since launching in 2008. But instead of hunting down scapegoats, Lawson instigates what he calls a ‘blameless post-mortem’ – a process he says looks at where company systems could have been at fault (such as causing staff to be over-stretched), rather than anything else.

But is it really that easy to have a culture of no-blame – especially when mistakes can cost significant amounts of money? And wouldn’t managers be errant if they didn’t identify the source of mistakes?

“Mistakes certainly cost – and the larger the company, the larger this cost is,” reflects Jinesh Vohra, founder of Sprive – the app that helps people pay off their mortgages quicker. “But it’s my strong feeling that mistakes – often made with the best intentions – have to be accounted for as part of the cost of doing business," he adds. 

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, he argues that a blameless culture allows staff to take responsibility for their work. "Ranting to staff on the floor has the reverse effect - it makes a culture toxic, which leads to more pressure, which only makes mistakes more likely."

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