"Playing the blame game." It's one of those trite phrases that exist because the behavior occurs -- both within companies and by individuals. It may even increase as the demands on and challenges faced by a manufacturer grow. That said, the consequences for a company that abides such actions is never good, as Autoliv reminded audience members during a presentation at the recent IndustryWeek Best Plants conference.
For example, what would happen if you as a team member made a mistake that led to a part being scrapped, asked Keith Bingham, autonomous manufacturing center manager, Autoliv Ogden [Utah] Assembly -- Airbag, Autoliv Americas. If the reaction by management were to belittle you or threaten your job, then a likely result would be an unhappy, unmotivated team member who withholds information or makes decisions based on fear. Even more, the problem that led to the part being scrapped may not be repaired.
On the other hand, if under the same circumstances management showed an appreciation for the problem being brought to light and asked the team member's help in finding a solution to the problem, then begins the process of creating a team of problem solvers. "Remember," Autoliv's presentation prompted, "if people are afraid to be judged and blamed in case of a problem, they will hide the problems."
When the focus changes from "who" is wrong to "what" is wrong, some obvious benefits accrue, Bingham's presentation pointed out. They include:
- Allowing real issues to emerge;
- Increasing the quality of communication;
- Allowing problems to be viewed as opportunities; and
- Increasing the capabilities of the manufacturer.
It's a simple message, but one that is not always employed. And when times get tough, it may be even harder to hang onto the "don't blame; don't judge" philosophy.
However, that's when it's most needed.