Production Machining

JUL 2013

Production Machining - Your access to the precision machining industrial buyer.

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ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS Is Yours a Blame Game Culture? By Matt Kirchner I t all started when I asked the customer service rep why the order was late. Te rep explained that it wasn't his fault that the machine operator didn't run the parts. So I walked out to the foor and asked the machine operator, who told me that Inventory Control didn't have the proper material. Of course, it wasn't their fault either: Inventory Control pointed out that the buyer didn't place the material order in time. So I confronted the buyer who informed me that customer service waited too long to put the order in the system, so it wasn't the buyer's fault that the order was late. Tere we had it—a perfect circle of blame wherein each and every person had a logical explanation for why the late When the leader order wasn't their fault until I ultimately owns literally circled back to where I started. the organization's Tat company had a blame problems, the team game culture where everyone members follow had an alibi, and team the example, and members put in just enough responsibility efort to make sure they could becomes part of avoid culpability in the event that something went wrong. It the culture. was as if each team member had done his job as long as he could push the issue just far enough along that someone else could be blamed. Te blame game plays out in myriad ways. From time to time, we hear a supervisor blame a shopfoor associate. "I told him to do it," the supervisor says. As if telling someone once, never checking up, and never validating that the request was carried out is somehow acceptable leadership. Who among us remembers everything we are asked or told to do? Another form is "Blame the Blamer." Tis is the one where a team member responds to criticism by turning the tables on the blamer. Te operations manager blames slow sales on the account executive who, in turn, explains that he could spend more time selling if he wasn't so busy meeting with customers to smooth out quality issues created by the operations manager. And around it goes. Ten there's the tactic of blaming the one thing we don't control or the one thing we can't change. I did some advisory work with a family-owned business whose employees blamed just about every problem on the owner's son. I interviewed the son and was bafed. Te kid was no rocket scientist, but 14 PRODUCTION MACHINING :: JULY 2013 nor was he a fool. How could everything be his fault? Ten it dawned on me. Te owner wasn't going to fre his own son, so as long as the team could rationalize an explanation for how the son caused the problem, they took themselves of the hook. Te one that grates the most is where the customer gets blamed. Te parts aren't to spec because the spec is too tight, or the order wouldn't be late if the customer had planned ahead and placed the order earlier. What? Sadly, many companies have a blame game culture, where the goal each day is to go home believing that whatever bad stuf happened was someone else's fault. What to do? Te fx starts at the top. Like so many aspects of business culture, the blame game culture is created directly or indirectly by the leader. When something goes wrong, does the leader seek to identify and pillory the guilty—thereby creating an environment where people try to stay out of trafc —or does the focus get placed on solving the problem? Take responsibility for everything. I recall a board member who accused me of being too quick to take the responsibility for the shortcomings of my team. I had to explain to him that the shortcomings of my team were still, one way or another, my shortcomings. After all, I was the one who chose the team. When the leader ultimately owns the organization's problems, the team members follow the example, and responsibility becomes part of the culture. Clear the air. Early in my career, when one employee pointed the fnger at another, the CEO for whom we worked put them both in the same room with him to iron things out. Blaming an individual in the absence of the blamed was strictly forbidden. It's fascinating how less likely one is to point the fnger when the person to whom we're assigning the blame is sitting right across the table. Focus on the customer. Finally, a blame game company is one that doesn't spend enough time talking about its customers. When we bring every issue back to how it afects the customer, regardless of who is to blame, we quickly get past the fnger pointing and on to solutions. CONTRIBUTOR Matt Kirchner is managing director of Proft360, LLC, a Wisconsin-based strategic advisor to U.S. Manufacturers; and is CEO of American Finishing Resources, LLC.  Contact :: mkirchner@proft-360.com

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