Just culture is dead.
It began as a beautiful idea but it is almost unrecognizable now. It has become something dirty and impure, a tool for power hungry people to label others and think they are doing something productive.
Just culture has become another bureaucratic policy, another mandatory training that people have to sit through while staring at bad PowerPoints and watching the clock.
If your organization thinks that embracing just culture is using an algorithm to decide if someone can be blamed for something or not, then it has already failed.
Just culture is a mindset, a belief and an approach to looking at things differently. At least it should be.
When used wrong just culture provides a way to label behaviors as wrong or right, reckless or not and determine what should happen to people. Just culture can be manipulated to show any outcome the person with the power wants it to. The algorithm is subjective and open to multiple interpretations. When used by people who cannot see the bigger picture it ends up being another avenue for justifying punitive behavior and getting rid of people. A just culture does not have a hierarchy where one judges who made a mistake and who was reckless – it has people that explore the concepts of human fallibility and understand the inherent flaws that come with being human.
Where there was once a genuine goal of improvement there is just cheap lip-service.
People with no real understanding of the process speak about it now because they have “done their research.” Quite often, these people are mistaking the map for the territory.
Spending twenty five dollars on flow charts will not bring about a cultural shift in your organization. Using jargon and catch-phrases does not bring about positive change. delegating thinking and feeling to a proprietary algorithm chart rarely provides a complete picture of what happened inside the tunnel, and it on’t lead to understanding.
Using a rigid algorithm to pigeon-hole behaviors does not accomplish anything worthwhile. It does not explain the “why” or “how” the events occurred; you just know who you can punish and who gets a pass. It won’t make you safer or better or smarter. Compartmentalizing and creating false dichotomies does not make you a better agency.
I’m not an idiot, there are some people that need to be removed from the job so they can no longer inflict harm on others but I also don’t need a flowchart to tell me that.
The heart of just culture can’t be bought from a company or learned from a PowerPoint. Just culture needs to be built on a foundation of trust – trust in others to let them shine a bright light on your imperfections and to let yourself be vulnerable knowing that you are safe. This level of openness and trust may be uncomfortable at first; it can leave people feeling exposed and raw. It is not the default setting for the average human being but it can be instilled in some people over time, others will never get it. After operating this way some people may begin to feel a sense of freedom develop as they no longer need to waste energy on reinforcing their defenses.
Without this level of trust everything else is meaningless bullshit.