Eric J. McNulty

It can be easy to reduce malfeasance to the acts of a few bad apples. This kind of thinking absolves the organization, and even the larger system, of blame — it’s a comfortable place for those invested in the status quo. I take a lesson from a healthcare system where I conducted a number of interviews earlier this year. Their quality ratings had gone from middle of the pack to tops in the nation. Whenever they have an adverse business outcome, they look first at the system and then at the individual. If the system is at fault, management is held accountable for faulty processes and protocols; if the system worked but an individual ignored or deviated from it, that person bears the responsibility. This intentional ordering of the inquiry makes it easier to find and solve larger problems that could otherwise easily be misattributed to individuals.

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