A frequently repeated theme in business is avoidance of responsibility. Think of all the recent corporate scandals and try to think of any corporate officer who stood up and said, "It was my idea, I did it, and I am the one who is responsible." Or when we read of failures in Government it is never the leaders who acknowledge poor leadership, it is an isolated mistake in the lower echelon.

When coated parts do not come out right, people may get involved in the blame game. Those bumps in the finish are dirt in the paint; poor airflow; poor housekeeping; the wrong filtration; out-gassing from a cast surface. People can become so preoccupied with placing blame that they lose sight of problem resolution. This leads to continued failure and an institutionalized response of, "it's not my fault." Another popular response is, "I take responsibility for not recognizing that my subordinate made a mistake." This sort of admission does not truly accept responsibility and contributes nothing to problem resolution.

Problem resolution relies on systematic review and experimentation to determine real causes and possible corrections. It requires teamwork and organization to design a process that will identify causes and test ideas that will eliminate problems. But if everyone is busy trying to prove that the problem is someone else's fault, they cannot discover the real cause and fix the problem.

Consider a powder coating company that currently uses five different coatings. They begin to use a sixth powder material and find that they get a higher number of rejects when they run that new product, including more particles in the finish and more orange peel. They suspect that there is something wrong with the new material and bring in the supplier to look at the problem. The supplier suggests that their operation is not in tight enough control and that is the real source of the problem. The coater's defense is "we do not have this problem with our other powders." That sounds reasonable, but suppose that the substrate material is different (a casting vs. an extrusion). Or suppose that the gloss of the new coating material is much higher than the other five materials. Could the problem be caused in part or in whole because of one of these two variables? Yes, it could.

Now consider what the coater wants to see happen. They want more good parts and fewer bad parts. Interestingly, so does the supplier. If they work together with a problem solving approach, they have a good chance of success. They can start by looking at other companies who use the same coating on a similar substrate and see if they experience similar results. If another company has better results then they will want to see what they do differently to achieve the better outcome. They should also study the entire process to look for possible causes and examine the finished parts to see if the rejects fit any other potential cause. They can try different powders with the "problem substrate" and different substrates with the "problem powder." They need measured data to support a theoretical cause.

The point is, do not just accept the obvious answer (the problem is the powder) until the process has been reviewed and found to be in complete control. If the process is in good control, it makes it much easier to find the real cause of a problem. Otherwise, the blame game is a waste of time and does nothing to resolve the real problem.