The recent telco outage that caused widespread network interruptions, affecting millions of customers across the country, has been attributed to an “embarrassing human error”.
“Unfortunately the individual that was managing that issue did not follow the correct procedure” stated the telco’s chief operating officer. Was publicly pointing the finger at this employee the right approach?
When something goes wrong, it can be a natural reaction to want to track down the person responsible for the error. However, does that achieve the desired outcome? It is an easy road, one that many of us have been guilty of taking. By pointing the finger, we risk oversimplifying a complex issue. We also risk creating a culture where employees are afraid to speak up when a mistake is made.
We may have seen this before – an employee did not follow the procedure. It is very rare that an employee deliberately sabotages a work process, most people want to do a good job. By asking the next question “why didn’t the employee follow the procedure?” we may find potential weaknesses in the work processes and implement successful mitigation. Perhaps it is not the person, but a flawed procedure. After all, procedures are written by people, and if people can be flawed, so too can procedures.
By focusing on the person, not the process breakdown, you risk making someone feel alienated. By mapping out the process, you can focus on finding the root cause/s, and you may be surprised at what you find.
Blaming a single employee for the recent outage has potentially uncovered weaknesses in their operating culture. Especially if you brand the issue as “embarrassing”.