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Stop Blaming Luke: Collective Ownership and an Absence of Scapegoating


Have you ever worked in retail when a sales target has been missed? You may have been thrust into a briefing meeting before your shift began, lectured by the senior staff about how the sales team’s best efforts were not great enough. Stood amongst your colleagues, your eyes may wonder as you attempt to gage who your managers are actually mad at; they can’t just call out one person and blame them, so they’ve been granted the grace of a meat shield of colleagues, and yet, everyone seems to have an inclination as to who caused the team to miss the targets. You wonder if anyone is blaming you. You cross your arms, wanting to shirk your portion of this blame.


But, what may have been at play was a practice of collective ownership; an attempt to have the entire team conscious of their contribution to the work on the shop floor. They want accountability. Collective accountability. You are all responsible, lest they name names. After all, the perceieved work done in a shift may be significantly different from what actually gets done.


Maybe Luke was put in the stock room all shift and that’s why he only used his till code twice in his four-hour shift. That doesn’t mean Luke was the root of the problem. And, he shouldn’t be blamed.

It was proposed in SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell that one of the principles of creating agile teams within a workplace is to implement the idea of collective ownership over ideas, and work.


This means that, instead of simply blaming Luke, you host the group meeting, explain that the store is significantly below target and that things need to improve. You can’t use Luke as a scapegoat, you have to let everyone have a slither of the responsibility. It is not fair to oust one person as the root of a problem without concrete evidence. Of course, if Luke had been on the shop floor for four hours in the peak sales time of the day, and only made two sales, you could keep an eye on him, see if he was dealt a poor hand of customers, or if he’s hiding at the back of the storefront on his phone, texting his girlfriend.


In the Financial Times, professor of organisation and management at Warwick Business School, Maja Korica, explained that leaders have to trust workers, explaining that “distrust [between leaders and employees, especially during these current turbulent times] is unlikely to lead to good work. If people have a sense of ownership and meaning regarding their work, this is likely to bring more joy, especially after an emergency period.”


This means, that, even as we move back toward normality, post mass-vaccination etc. working as a unit, and having collective ownership over ideas, over output and progress etc. ought to not only boost internal rapport within a department, but boost the morale of your staff. After all, Daniel Pink explained that we are motivated by mastery of our craft, a sense of autonomy at work, where we get to make our own choices, and a sense of purpose, that our efforts mean something in the wider scheme of things. It is important to remember that we are part of something bigger, especially as we dust off the doors to the office.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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