First, let us ask “What do we mean by Hot Potatoes?”
Simply, it is a game that involves several players sitting or standing in a circle. They bring a small object such as a tennis ball. That object is called the hot potato. Then, music plays while players pass the hot potato from one to another. They try to get rid of the hot potato as soon as possible because when music stops; the one holding the hot potato loses the game.
This game can be fun. However, in business, the hot potato is not fun at all.
In business life, failure is a hot potato. Meanwhile, employees are the players who try to get rid of it not to lose.
In this perspective, we have two types of companies: successful companies, and the companies that have hot potatoes.
Companies with hot potatoes
What happens when something gets wrong? … What if the company faced a significant drop in revenues, or lost an important deal to the competitor?
The company may respond by looking for “Who” … managers will try to find who is responsible for that failure… Is he the sales representative? … The customer service leader? … Or maybe the technical manager? … Once they find “the one”, they blame or punish him/her. Then, they return to normal routine … case closed!
When this is repeated until it becomes a part of the company culture, employees will respond as follows:
- Priorities of the employees will change. Instead of looking for achieving company success, it will gradually turn to avoiding blame for potential failures … how to protect myself from manager storms.
- Once something gets wrong, everyone will try to get rid of the Hot Potato, and throw it to another colleague. That will negatively affect the team spirit by turning the employees of same company into competitors.
- Employees will avoid taking risks, making initiatives, or volunteering to help others. Everyone will try to play in order to avoid hot potatoes.
- Finally, many employees may quit.
Gradually, that culture will have a negative effect on the overall performance of the company.
On the other hand, what happens when something gets wrong in a successful company?
Successful companies understand that finding someone to blame does not usually solve the problem and make the company successful again.
Accordingly, Instead of asking “Who”, successful companies ask “Why”… managers will analyze the situation to find the root causes of the failure and understand why it happened.
Why did we lose that big opportunity? … Was it due to an external factor because of a change in the market environment? … Or was it due to a problem in our inner process?
Sometimes, finding the root cause is not easy. Therefore, there are techniques for that. One of the famous ones is called “5 Whys analysis”, a Japanese tool where the question ‘why’ is asked five times.
Once managers finalize the analysis, they move from “Why” to “How”. It is about finding corrective actions to avoid facing the same problem in the future. Sometimes all what we need is a little modification in the workflow, specific training to the team, or revisiting the operations plan. Blaming or punishing someone is not a mandatory action. Accordingly, there is no hot potato. Instead, company & employees are cooperating to achieve their targets. Moreover, they are able to establish a healthy work environment.
You may also read: Seven reasons for employee’s low performance.
A writer & GIS consultant … Studied the Management of Technology … dreaming of a better world.