YKK Stories

2019-04-29 Issue 94 – Fundamental Behavior 17 – Practice blameless problem-solving

April 29, 2019
Author: YKK
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It’s only human nature that when something goes wrong, our first instinct is to look for where the blame should be placed and who is at fault.  Personally, I give 100% of the credit to my parents for instilling this negative attribute in me at a very young age. (lol)

I think back to when I was an innocent and playful kid; on occasions, my playfulness would result in me breaking items of value within the home.  Whenever my parents discovered the outcome of this playfulness, they would YELL, “Who is responsible for this”?

In those very intense and stressful moments, the only thing that came to my mind was how to deflect the blame to someone else. (My sister, the dog, and the cat all became good targets). But at NO point did it cross my mind to take ownership and start to have constructive dialogue about how to prevent it from occurring again.

In all seriousness, it is unfortunate, but I see many people display this “Who is responsible for this?” behavior today. When things don’t go as we expect or desire, the easiest thing is to focus on who is to blame. Not only is this a tremendous waste of energy and valuable time, it creates conflict and destroys trust.  I am a believer that processes fail, not people. Therefore, the time we spend finding and assigning blame, we are losing a valuable opportunity to potentially fix a process that will ultimately fail again in the future.

My favorite Core Value of YKK is “Do Not Fear Failure.” Long-term success in a complex and ever changing environment like ours requires experimenting. And experiments will fail. The strength of a person or an organization is ultimately not determined by whether it fails, but rather how much knowledge was gained from its failures. My favorite Thomas Edison quote is, “I have not failed. I now know 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It is impossible to not fear failure if the culture of placing blame exists within an organization. Therefore, I challenge you that the next time you are dealing with a problem or mistake to ask yourself, “Where is my focus and attention?” Will you use that time and energy to focus on “Who is responsible for this?” or will you apply your creativity and enthusiasm to develop solutions? The latter will allow us to identify lessons and use those lessons to improving ourselves and our processes.

If only my parents had thought this way…

Allen Mathis
Vice President, Supply Chain Management
YKK AP America