Common questions like what, who and where written in chalk on a blackboard Reading Nick’s article on what good leaders can learn from rules, consequences and reason made me think about the impact managers have on perception of blame in a business.

I’ve had many debates with people about blame versus no-blame culture, yet in reality both can be as bad as each other. If anything, no-blame means lack of accountability and that’s seriously frustrating for people working in a business. As Nick articulately outlines, cultural nirvana lies in one that’s just and the responsibility for creating that culture ultimately sits with the management of the business.

Simple things you can do to reinforce a just culture

I’ve found that one of the most critical things you can do is ask the right questions when an incident happens. This makes sure that if and when you do get to a formal investigation you’re open-minded enough to examine all possible causes. The worst thing you can do is assume an individual mistake caused the incident when you react: “Oh ****! What have they done now?”

Here are five effective questions to ask yourself when something goes wrong:

  • In this situation, with the same level of skills and experience and under the same pressure, would I have made the same decision(s) that those involved in the incident did?
  • How did I contribute to that incident happening?
  • What circumstances or pressures in the business right now might have led to individual(s) making the wrong choices?
  • Have I ignored or tacitly accepted individual(s) making choices similar to those that were the cause or part of the cause of the incident?
  • Were the choices made by those individuals involved likely to be decisions that are widely adopted by others?

These questions help frame your understanding that the choices and actions leading up to incidents are rarely as simple as an isolated careless mistake. An example brings this to life in are you dealing with all the dominos?