Businesses who adopt a no-blame culture help create a positive environment for their employees where mistakes are learning opportunities which in turn helps minimise them from happening in the future.
No blame cultures originate from high reliability organisations (HROs) such as airlines and hospitals, where small errors can in fact have catastrophic effects. Companies embrace the possibility of mistakes and employees are encouraged to take ownership of errors so that everyone can learn and grow from them.
According to Matthew Syed and his book ‘Black Box Thinking’ the aviation sector has mastered the art of creating systems and cultures that enable organizations to learn from errors, rather than be threatened by them. They have an attitude that says human error is inevitable, therefore we must put in place processes to protect us from them. The electronic flight recording equipment on a plane, known as the ‘black box,’ does exactly this and assists in the investigation of aviation accidents and incidents after they occur.
At Indigo Swan we created our ‘cygnot’ process which is linked to this idea. If someone has made a mistake, we want to learn from it. How did it happen? What could we do differently next time? These are all questions we will ask and encourage the relevant member of the team to work on, so that we are constantly improving and so that the team is fully engaged with our processes and performance.
There can be many benefits to implementing a no-blame culture. Not only do they encourage openness and honesty, they help strengthen trust from within an organisation. On one side employees are trusted to put their hands up when they have made a mistake and on the other trust is placed on the employers not to act negatively on them.
Building trust from within will also benefit your customers. Continuous improvement means your customers will receive a higher level of quality service and more positive relationships can be formed.
By shifting the focus to learning and problem solving there’s opportunity to improve your business efficiency. Employees will be able to achieve more in their working day as they have the knowledge and skills on hand to do so. Your company can grow and flourish, as your team are all working together through obstacles towards the same goals and objectives.
Overall company culture will improve. Employees no longer feel the need to cover up or hide mistakes which can lead to anxiety, instead they are voiced and worked through together, encouraging teamwork and helping to foster employee happiness.
Trust is an important aspect in building a no-blame culture but the desire to learn is also integral. Your team needs to be engaged with the concept that mistakes are learning opportunities which will help your company evolve and continuous improvement needs to be a focus. Ensure your leaders have the appetite to learn and this will filter down into your teams.
Be transparent and provide updates on the progress of a solution. When new processes are implemented make the team aware of any changes and give training where needed to ensure everyone fully understands. Include employees on the full journey so they can see what action has been taken. Without this transparent approach you may find your team lack the confidence to raise their hand when they have made a mistake as they don’t believe action has been taken.
Remain positive and keep the spotlight on problem solving and not the issue itself. This will help employees feel comfortable in putting up their hand when errors occur. For some, putting in place a formal process of submitting an error can help build this confidence. Through our ‘cygnot’ process employees raise an error within our CRM system which is logged with our management team to review.
Outline at the beginning what is expected from employees, how everyone fits in and what they can do to make sure everyone reaps the rewards. These things are always done better in person, so if possible, sit down with your team and go through with them in detail how you expect it to work and any processes which will be put in place. Be honest and let them know why you have decided to try it so they can understand the reasoning and get fully onboard.
It’s also important to recognise and celebrate progress. Praise for good work will help motivate your team and by setting clear goals and objectives you have something to work towards together, reinforcing the team moral.
For more information around the benefits of implementing a no blame culture and how it can have a positive impact on your employee’s happiness check out James Groves, Managing Director at Indigo Swan, TEDx Norwich talk on ‘how mistakes can help positively impact your company culture’.