Own the problem, not the process

All too often we are involved in the finger pointing game when there is a problem. It is very easy to shift the blame or point out what someone else isn’t doing / is doing wrong to transfer focus away from yourself.

This should be a golden rule: Own the problem, not the process.

When there is a problem, stop being the one to point at others and shift blame or even look to others to discover the cause. Simply say to yourself, “This is my problem and I’m going to help fix it.”

In a culture that practices transference of blame, this is a very difficult concept, but it can be a very powerful concept as well. Some of you might already be saying that if it’s not your problem, why would you own it?

Owning problems is what it means to be a solution provider. When something is wrong that you’re aware of, how can you help fix it?

Think about this…in your company, there are a lot of people and organization (teams) that deliver integrated and non-integrated services. Right?

Your company is delivering these services to one ultimate person–your customer. Right?

So, when there is a problem that you are aware of or part of, why would you spend your energy shifting the blame to someone else instead of fixing that problem? Is the customer not important to you?

Let’s say that the blame for this problem definitely belongs with another team…so what? Are you so focused on your own process and only worrying about what you control that you ignore problems that affect your customer?

If I were the CEO of your company, you wouldn’t work there anymore. Customers don’t care where the problem resides, all they care about is the service they receive is less than expected.

So, when I say Own the problem not the process, what I mean is to focus on the customer. If their is a problem that you are aware of, more than likely, if you are aware of it, you are part of the integrated process that delivers it. Stop pointing fingers and highlighting the failings or another team and step up and see what you can help do about it.

However, don’t do this–don’t step in as another process owner that is going to “save the day.” Come in as a problem owner with the desire to help truly fix the problem.

If we spent half our time focusing on fixing problems that we focus on assigning blame, we would have significantly less problems.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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