Check your processes not your people

Attribution Error is definitely not a new topic but it cannot be overemphasized or exhausted. After acknowledging that there is a problem, it is crucial to identify the root cause. Here comes attribution error which is holding people responsible (based on character or intention) for low quality production/performance rather than external factors.

Even most people oriented companies/teams fall victims of such pitfall. Probably (trying not to generalize here) it is just easier to blame people and pressure them rather than collaborating with them to find solutions. Sometimes it is lack of management skills. Regardless of the cause, what is often overlooked is the effect such mentality and approach has on employees’ motivation and satisfaction. All they see is that they are doing their best but not able to bring production up to standards and managers make it worse by holding them responsible.

The way I see it, even if there is a people problem example: employee not meeting certain standards while others are, it is actually process problem. Maybe standards are not clear enough and need to be reinforced and re-communicated. It also could be that this employee was not trained enough…. I could go on and on listing all possible causes. But it is not the employee.

The first step to avoid this is to look beyond and realize that not all people have the ability to improve their processes how they do things, although it is an added value, however should not be expected of them.

Second step is to agree that the process is the problem. The process is how things are done. So, rather than rushing into finding who is responsible for an error, we need to stop, analyze current processes and do the needed changes to achieve desired outcome.

Third step involves collaborating with employees to solve the problem which is causing low standard performance and, in many cases, employee dissatisfaction.

I’ll conclude with summing up the advantages of applying the above. Employees will perceive this positively and know that the company is there for them and is assisting them and not adding to their list of frustrations. This will empower employees and increase employee satisfaction. Such method helps integrate continuous improvement into the culture which is very important in the journey towards operational excellence.

Have you ever fell a victim of attribution error?

What are other ways to overcome it?