Best Boss Take 5 | There Is No Blame

We’re proud to present Peter Senge’s 11th Law of Systems Thinking. If this is your first time watching our series, I encourage you to check out our other 10 videos (see links at the bottom) to fully appreciate the complexity of problems and challenges that managers and leaders often deal with.

System law #11 is kind of the queen bee of the 11 laws, stating, “There is no blame.” This reminds us that the majority of our challenges at work are not about individuals, but about the systems that surround them. It’s never about the person.

Here are three important factors as you work through complicated system issues:

1. Go Back Up the Thread of Decision Making

If you’re working through a systems problem and find yourself blaming a person for the problem, pause and think about what led you to that decision. Trace back through your decision-making process to uncover the root cause. Use techniques like the “5 Whys” to peel back the layers of the problem, focusing on the system, not the individual. Start with the premise that everyone you are working with is operating in the highest of integrity, and doing the best that they can.

2. Ask the Blamed, “What’s in your way that we can adjust?”

This opens up the conversation and can help identify what systemic factors might be hindering their performance. Your goal is to shift the system to support the individual better so that they can do and give their best. Sometimes it’s about eliminating or changing a job responsibility, or providing a new piece of equipment, or some training (like the Best Boss Bootcamp!) or coaching. Sometimes it’s all those things, but see what you can do inside the system to make the biggest difference. 

3. Shift Your Mindset from Fixing People to Fixing Systems

Remember, your role is not to fix people, it’s to fix systems … not solving people, solving problems. It is such a slippery slope, and easy to think that fixing people, getting rid of people, and changing people, will make the biggest difference. And, yes, that may be the case, but what can we do to support them? What can we do in the system to best support people so that they are able to give their best and do their best? 

Thank you for joining us in exploring Peter Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems Thinking. If you have questions about how to apply these laws, please reach out. We’d love to work with you in tackling the complex challenges you face.

Here are the previous laws if you’d like to review:

Law #1: Today’s Problems Come from Yesterday’s Solutions

Law #2: The Harder You Push, The Harder the Systems Pushes Back

Law #3: Behavior Grows Better Before It Grows Worse

Law #4: You Can’t Divide an Elephant in Half

Law #5: The Easy Way Out Usually Leads Back In

Law #6: The Cure Can Be Worse Than the Disease

Law #7: Faster is Sometimes Slower

Law #8: Cause and Effect Are Not Closely Related in Time and Space

Law #9: Small Changes Can Produce Big Results

Law #10: You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too – But Not at the Same Time

About Danny

With over 20 years experience in training and leadership development  — and holding an MBA and an MA in Organizational Development — Danny Ceballos has worked with organizations across the country to strengthen their effectiveness in leading and managing others through supervision+motivation best practices and strategies.