A Tale of Two Cultures

The first tale comes from the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) via Geraldine Koon and the Hong Kong Maritime Club. Titled, “It’s a blame culture! So be careful what you say,” the article notes that, “The ISM code promotes a no-blame culture. However, when something goes wrong, it can be the very opposite.” It goes on to say, “Parties involved [in an incident] will inevitably ask for any reports into the incident and scrutinise them for anything that can be used to assign blame and liability.”

As mariners in an age of increased criminalization, this indicates that reports, including internal reports, should be carefully written. We should be doing this as the standard, but incident reports should include objective facts and evidence, not opinions or theories.

The second tale comes from Manenda Kutare and is titled, “No Blame Culture for High Performance Organizations.” It discusses the atmosphere around a Formula 1 racing team where a small issue lead to a race loss. It would have been easy to point fingers and assign blame, but the organization stuck to its values and accepted the lessons learned.

It has been asked a number of times whether the maritime industry is made up of High Reliability Organizations (HRO) much as nuclear power plants or aircraft carriers are, but I don’t think there’d be much debate on it being considered a High Performance Organization.

Some of the key considerations when building a “no-blame” culture are :

1. Distinguish between Blame and Accountability

2. Look at the mirror and confront your fears

3. Appreciate mistakes happen and learn from them

4. Give others benefit of doubt

5. Lead with inquiry and watch your emotion

6. Build employee relationships outside the office work

7. Create collective vision and purpose

In which organization would YOU like to work?

Let’s be safe out there.

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