I have worked in industry for thirty-seven years, and I have often come across a blame culture within some of the organisations that I worked for. A blame culture is a predisposition within an organisation to find an apparent, simple reason for why something bad has happened. (Rosling 2019) It seems that when something goes bad within these organisations, it must be because of some corrupt or incompetent individual. This blame instinct makes these organisations exaggerate the importance of individuals or particular groups.
I recall being called into a conference room by a middle manager and being yelled at for having “f***ed up” and being “asleep at the wheel”, the manager desperately wanted to assign blame onto me for some disappointing data. He was wrong, and his blame assertions were driven by ignorance and a desperate desire to deflect any potential blame away from himself.
This instinct to find a guilty party disrupts an organisations ability to develop an accurate data-based understanding of problems, it embezzles their problem-solving emphasis as they fixate on who to blame. The blame culture undermines the problem-solving process with over-simplistic finger-pointing and distracts from the often inconveniently complicated reality.
When things go wrong in organisations, the focus needs to be on finding the root causes and not looking for someone to blame. When bad things transpire in organisations, managers need to accept that no one intended this to happen and devote their resources on understanding the often complex interactions and systems that created the bad outcome.
Rosling, H. 2019. Factfulness. Flammarion.