Do not ask who, ask why.
Piles have been written about changing culture as the means to improve performance.
Most of it misses the point.
Learning organisations, teams, mutual obligation, and all the rest, but when it comes down to it, the core is about people wanting to, being able to, and being acknowledged as doing a good, and worthwhile job.
It does not matter if you are the managing director, or the cleaner, both are there for a set of pretty common reasons, and high amongst them is to do a good job.
Nobody, not even the most militant and unreasonable ‘rabble-rouser’ ever went to work to do a bad job.
The task of the organisation is to organise to get the best, most cost efficient, most customer value specific job done and delivered, and in most cases that requires people.
Therefore the task of management, and everybody involved should be focussed on removing the impediments to getting that job done, and having an engaged and responsive work force that gets the job done better than competitors.
Only then can you be commercially sustainable.
Years ago, (mid eighties) involved in the early production of a new dairy plant which amongst other products made yoghurt, we used to watch the huge waste bins being carted away, several a day, day after day, a seemingly intractable set of quality problems was costing millions.
Even worse, the office and management staff could see the waste, and lost confidence and heart.
In the midst of the turmoil, I watched one day as bad product was being pumped out of the batching tanks into the system that mixed in the fruit components, and was then sent to the form & fill packaging machine to be packed, to be sent to the waste bin.
When I raced around to get the machine stopped before it was mixed with the fruit, I was told to nick off, the system could not be stopped mid stride, there was no choice but to knowingly add substantial cost to a poor product that would cost us to throw out.
After some heated exchanges, the whole system was closed down, and I presided over an impromptu meeting I convened almost by force on the factory floor to figure out the cause of the problem. As I was the marketing and sales manager, this was theoretically way outside my formal jurisdiction, but I was the one taking all the customer calls about bad quality and short delivery, and a key KPI was margin, so the bad product was really hurting the formal measures of my performance.
The production manager and supervisory people were seriously pissed, as their KPI’s were all about throughput, nothing about quality, customers or cost.
The meeting was a very unpleasant finger pointing exercise, nobody was to blame, and yet, everyone was to blame, but it was the beginning of an improvement process that led to the plant becoming a world class plant over the following couple of years.
At the core of the improvement was the conversion of the previous procedure of blaming a problem on someone other than yourself, to investigating and fixing the causes of the problems at source.
The tool used extensively was a version of what has become known as ‘5 why’. It replaced what we began to call the failed ‘5 who’ with the genuine investigation and remediation of the root cause of problems.
The lesson, always Ask why, not who.