Three Types of Culture

1. Blame culture

I am not a big fan of blaming people when things go wrong.

There are two reasons why:

  • It is hard to apportion blame correctly. Business is a team sport. With so many players involved failures are rarely the fault of one person. If a goal keeper lets in a goal, was he at fault, or the defenders?
  • Apportioning blame is counterproductive. If you blame people they will hide their mistakes. If people hide their mistakes you can’t fix them.

So blaming people — no matter how deeply the need to do so is ingrained on your psyche — is invariably a complete waste of time, if not worse.  To quote my favourite guru

Hold people accountable, ridiculous ~ W. Edwards Deming

2. Blameless culture

In a blameless culture people are free of blame, fear and recriminations and can learn from their mistakes. Maybe I am naive, but wouldn’t a blameless culture be the antidote to a blame culture?  Wouldn’t it be far more productive?

Probably not. If you operate a totally blameless culture then people can (and sooner or later will) get away with murder. Sometimes you have to blame somebody for something.

A culture where people could do whatever they wanted would anarchy.  It would be every bit as toxic as one where they are scared to breath.

3. Just culture

If you want a truly productive culture you must have a culture that your employees believe is just.

In a just culture people would be ready to admit to their mistakes because they knew they would be treated justly and fairly. Circumstances would be taken into account and fair judgements would be made.

So if you want a just culture…

You have to answer a couple of questions:

  1. Who defines what is just in your organisation?
  2. Would your employees agree with them?

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Image by Captain Roger Fenton

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