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No Fault, No Blame, No Victims - A Necessary Culture for Collaboration and Problem Solving

Recently I participated in a meeting set up by our staff with Information Technology leaders from a Texas-based comprehensive medical care provider. The forum was organized to gain more insight into the information management issues facing the health care industry. Our hosts were gracious and open in what they shared with us, and I came away impressed; they have a highly mature standard of IM practices, not only for the health care industry, but cross-industry.

While their IM strategy and approach are impressive, what really struck me was how important their culture plays a role in their success. One specific example stood out; they take a “no fault, no blame” approach to dealing with issues. There is no finger-pointing when things don’t go as planned, only a focus on what to do going forward. This creates an environment where problems are quickly identified and dealt with. Their employees are not afraid to raise issues, even if they themselves caused them, resulting in quicker solutions.

Another aspect of their culture is a “no victims” attitude, and fits within their broader aim of effective collaboration. Blaming someone else for one’s inability to get something done is not tolerated. Everyone is empowered to deal with barriers to their own success, and is expected to approach these barriers professionally. Collaboration is expected, and as a result there are few instances of interpersonal barriers.

I recall a situation when I was a consultant at a prior employer and had to learn a lesson the hard way about both of these principles. I was asked to manage a project that had been planned and shaped by a partner of the firm and then handed over to me. The project eventually went over budget and past schedule because the realities on the ground were very different from the ideal imagined from a thousand miles away, when the proposal was originally submitted to the client. When I was called out on it, I took the “victim” attitude and blamed the problems on poor planning by the partner. To my benefit and his credit, the partner took a “no fault, no blame” attitude, and instead just coached me on how I might have collaborated better with him earlier in the project, which likely would have allowed him to request more money and time from the client. He saw this simply as a teachable moment to prevent such issues from repeating in the future.

While it is easy to fall into the blame game when something goes wrong, practicing “no fault, no blame” and “no victims” moves one quickly off the problem and onto the solution, which is much more productive.