Blame Wars

My introduction to corrective action, about forty years ago, was a four-part form called an Internal Discrepancy Report, or “IDR” as it was affectionately known.    If material was defective we called it “discrepant.”  Maybe I’m mincing words here, but I think discrepancy implies a disagreement or inconsistency, for example, a discrepancy between your bank statement and your checkbook balance.   Funny word, “discrepancy.”   We said “discrepancy” but we meant, “defect.”

Of the four parts of the IDR it was probably not a coincidence that the Pink Copy went to the area where the defect – oops, discrepancy – was thought to have originated.  On the root cause analysis section of the IDR, the word “workmanship” frequently appeared.  Perhaps it should have been a checkbox to save time.

Before we began our Lean odyssey, I think we mostly used only one of the five whys.   Our root cause analysis was pretty shallow.   Consequently, our corrective action looked more like fault assignment.  Comments in the corrective action section of the IDR read like “employee was spoken to” or “re-training.” In the end, IDR’s were a means to round up the usual suspects.

The problem however was not really with the IDR or the word “discrepancy” (which essentially was intended to avoid pre-judgment), but with the fact that the culture at the time tended to presume guilt.  One employee warned me “Be careful if you report a problem, they may blame you.”  We had an apparent process in the IDR whose purpose was to identify and correct problems, but the actual process discouraged reporting problems

So how important is your culture to effective problem-solving?   Want to learn more about building a problem-solving organization?   Take a couple minutes to hear this sneak preview of Jamie Flinchbaugh’s keynote presentation at our October 5-6 Made Lean in America conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.


(Click on the triangle to listen)

Hope to see you at the conference.

O.L.D.

2 thoughts on “Blame Wars

  1. Bruce,

    Sounds like you had the same problems with the 5 Whys that we used to. In fact we used to call it the 5 Whos instead – because we were looking for root blame instead of root cause. (Lots more fun.) Of course once we got folks using the 5 Whys, we started getting the 5 Becauses, but that’s another story all together.

    Tom Warda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s