There was plenty of talk about this in the tea room at my work place the next day, about the major traffic jams and hassle it caused. The usual “I bet the digger driver gets it!” comment was made….and, possibly, he will. But, on reflection, do any of us think that the digger driver did it deliberately? I doubt it.
The Press article reporting the gas leak notes that the Fire Service representative said “a digger driver working in the area caused the widespread disruption”. Whilst maybe taken out of context, as the media delight in doing, it’s pretty emotive to single out the digger driver.
Much better, I would suggest, is that SCIRT (the infrastructure rebuild organisation) claimed responsibility, stated that they will be doing a full investigation and said “it is essential that we work out how this happened so it does not recur in future.” That’s a lot better, looking much wider than the person AND wanting to improve the process.
It is interesting to note that the reader’s comments section below the article is a mixture of blaming the digger driver, blaming SCIRT and conversely, trying to ‘cut them some slack’ by noting that the post-quake Christchurch environment is a somewhat tricky one to be operating within and it would be a miracle if no such defects occurred given the magnitude of the work being undertaken. I am often frustrated at how people jump to blame without being in possession of the facts.
Whilst this example of a defect causing pain for others is pretty major, we could (if we looked with our ‘blaming bad people’ radars turned on) find lots of examples at work in which you and I think badly of a person because of what we perceive they did, or did not do.
But, standing back, how many people turn up at work to deliberately do a poor job…conversely, how many people are doing their best given the environment they work within…and, perhaps most concerning, how many people have effectively turned their brains to their ‘low setting’ because of the system they have to work within?
So, whenever you find yourself blaming a person, try to stand back and think about the environment that they are working within. If you think about it, you are very likely to find many reasons as to why they acted as they did…and the harder you look, the more likely you are to consider the process could be improved.
Finally, if you think the process should be improved but believe it won’t be…I would ask you to reflect on why this is the case…perhaps the constraint is within the design of the ‘management system’ in which the workers have to operate.
As the Toyota saying goes “Be hard on the process, but soft on the operators.”