From the Senior Advisor: Systems, Errors, and Ethics

When something goes wrong, often our first instinct is to place blame. Whether the error occurs at our workplace, in our community, or in national affairs, we ask: Who is at fault? What rules were violated? Why did this slip through the cracks? Often these errors are not the fault of a single person or team, but of the entire system.

We all work within organizations and social “systems.” When bad things happen, we can quickly come to believe that a single individual—through ineptness, maliciousness, or just sloth—may be the prime cause of the error, the individual solely responsible. Our snap judgment is that someone didn’t do their job or didn’t do it well enough or zigged when they should have zagged. And, now, someone is going to get blamed.