Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
The MPG team have been participating in the QLD LGMA Branch Forum series over the last few months. These workshops have focused on the development of a positive organisational culture and have been an enlightening and thought provoking professional development opportunity.
In reflecting on the cultural aspects that influence organisational performance and the cultural differences between Councils that we work with, I have observed that one significant influencer on organisational performance is the extent to which people take responsibility for their actions, performance and output.
Unfortunately, in some organisations, the culture reflects a lack of responsibility and a focus on coming up with excuses rather than owning a matter and taking responsibility for addressing it. Also it is very difficult to develop and maintain high performance if issues are not or cannot be addressed because no one takes ownership of and responsibility for them.
If the organsiation accepts excuses for poor performance without consequence or remedial action and staff do not take responsibility and are not being held accountable for their performance, the incidence of this behaviour will naturally grow to a point where the organisation and the community they serve really suffer.
Of course, the effectiveness of performance management of individuals in the organisation plays a big part in building organisational performance. However, where there is an embedded culture of excuses and blame, taking a whole of organisation approach to addressing the matter may be warranted.
It is clearly a serious issue for an organsiation when staff are more focused on coming up with an excuse, rather than taking responsibility and especially when they feel that they donâ€™t have to bother about performance as long as they come up with a decent excuse. This soon creates an environment where everyone is looking out for themselves and this focus on the individual and what suits them works against a collective effort to achieve organisational goals.
A key feature of high performance teams (whether a sporting team or work group), is that they are made up of individuals that know their job and take responsibility for doing it. When things do not go to plan they will â€œput up their handâ€ and accept responsibility. In this environment all team members are confident in their team mates doing their job and therefore can focus on doing their own job properly and delivering the result for the benefit of the group.
Creating a culture that moves away from blame and excuses will help staff to have confidence and trust in each other and build a focus on achieving results or improving the way things are done so that the result can be achieved next time. To create such a culture will require a no excuses focus.
In saying no excuses I mean that rather than making excuses or laying blame, we accept that the outcome hasnâ€™t been delivered, identify learnings to help future improvements and establish a plan to deliver what we need to.
So what are the implications of taking a â€œno excusesâ€ approach?
It could be argued that not accepting excuses will encourage staff to â€œplay it safeâ€ at the expense of creativity and change. I would suggest however that taking a no excuses approach doesnâ€™t have to restrict innovation and risk taking. In fact if we build a culture where staff take responsibility and are effectively supported in that, then they should be better equipped and motivated to strive for continuous improvement and be prepared to try new things. If things donâ€™t work out the way they are intended, rather than looking for excuses, staff would accept responsibility, determine how they are going to deliver, make a plan to deliver and a make a commitment to do so.
In supporting the cultural change required to develop a high performance, â€œno excusesâ€ organisation, Managers need to be aware of the danger of accepting excuses for poor performance. They need to hold staff accountable for their performance but also give them the tools and skills they need to make sure they can focus on what they are responsible for and allow them to deliver. Most of all, Management needs to set the standard. They need to â€œbe the changeâ€ they seek and deliver their message through both their words and actions.
So what about you? Are you game to take the no excuses approach in your own work and personal life? Why not try it? It may require a mindset change. It may require a degree of focus to successfully address challenges in this way. However this approach might also make a big difference to you personally and to your organisation. Good luck andâ€¦.
No Excuses, No Excuses, No Excuses.