Blame doesn’t offer solutions…

Management & Growth, News,

Regular readers of these posts will know that I love to see the different ways CEOs of big corporates tackle the kind of problems that we all face if we employ a team of any size. This week a story on the BBC website caught my eye. You may not have heard of Twilio, or CEO Jeff Lawson, but may find the story interesting!

Who are Twilio?

It’s a tech firm set up by Lawson in 2008, that send the updates to your phone that tell you the progress on your takeaway deliveries, or your Uber car. It works with more than 240,000 businesses globally, with annual sales of over £1.8billion. So they’ve grown well!

What happened?

In 2017 Uber announced it was going to reduce their spend with the firm. It was a major setback and when the loss was announced, Twilio’s share price dropped by 40%.

Then what?

Lawson says that he was tempted to lay blame for the loss of such a large client at the door of the sales person responsible for the account. Instead though, he took the time to work out WHY the issue had arisen. This was the first of what he now calls ‘the blameless post-mortem’. He wanted to see whether the company’s processes were at fault, rather than an individual.

What he found proved the case. The Uber account had grown very quickly, but the sales person had that account and about thirty others, and simply didn’t have the time to devote to the relationship. If they’d had time to have regular conversations with Uber, they may well have become aware of the growing dissatisfaction before Uber made their decision to reduce their spend.

Lawson recognised that the sales staff were over-worked, and that he needed to recruit, rapidly. Twilio now employs 5,500 people worldwide and has grown five-fold since that point. Lawson puts this down to the acceptance that there will always be human error, and the key is to make sure that processes are set up to reduce the risk of those errors when they do happen.

The final line of the BBC article is a quote from Lawson, who says ‘Every employee will make mistakes,” he says. “That’s unavoidable. As leaders, we have to build systems in which mistakes are non-catastrophic. If you have created a system where one person can ruin the entire company, then you as a leader are at fault.’

How does your business handle error by your team? Can you improve the way these are dealt with and reviewed, to ensure that the lessons are learnt in a positive way? This will not only protect the business in future but also encourage your team to make you aware of errors in the first place. A win-win!

You can read more on the story here.


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