When Something Goes Wrong, Don’t Waste Time Assigning Blame

Over the last few weeks, we have been writing about the benefits of employee engagement in Health Care. This week, we are going to look at a problem that hurts employee engagement there and everywhere.

A couple of weeks ago, Congress began an investigation on the problems plaguing the Veterans Administration Health Care network. There certainly are problems present in this system that need attention, however it is unlikely this investigation will do anything to fix them.

There are two basic rules in play that will prevent Congress from being productive in their hearings:

  1. I can not remember a Congressional investigation since Watergate that accomplished anything even closely related to diagnosing and effectively solving problems. Problem solving is usually not the goal of Congressional hearings and is unlikely to even be a possibility. This is largely due to the second rule.
  2. The underlying purposes of most Congressional investigations are to permit our elected representatives to grandstand and appear in the media as much as possible while trying to embarrass the opposing party. Problem solving is unlikley or impossible.

Evidence of the probable futility of the process came from the question posed by one of the members of the committee, who demanded to know how many people had lost their job because of the problems.

Almost immediately, the focus became finding blame. Someone (or someones) had to be punished for the problems. It is essential to find who was at fault and eliminate them. If we can do that, the problem will go away and everything will immediately be better.

Determining who to blame does not fix the system or solve the problem. The underlying causes will result in problems recurring and probably getting worse unless positive steps are taken to fix the system. This process will take real work and will take time. Quick answers need to be avoided.

The search for quick easy solutions and assigning blame prevents effective problem solving. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, one of the founders of the quality and employee engagement process, said 97% of what goes wrong is caused by problems in the system, not problems with people.

Eliminating the problems will require detailed analysis and must employees must be involved in the process. They understand the current system and the problems inherent in it and will have ideas about how to fix them. They will be able to help gather the data that will enable the careful identification of the underlying problems.

Congress is unlikely to put in the time and effort needed to solve the problems in the Veterans Administration Health Care system. They need to turn the task over to those who can accomplish the task.

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About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
This entry was posted in Customer Service, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Health Care Employee Involvement, Problem Solving, Teamwork and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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