“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership.  

A sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon

a team or organization can have.”  

In the last 50 years, the car crash death rate has dropped by nearly 80 percent. And one of the main reasons for that drop has to do with “accident report forms”. These are very specific forms that policeman and other first responders use to diagram the accident, document weather conditions, and identify the accident’s primary cause.

All that information is fed into the “Fatality Analysis Reporting System”. The data is available to anyone and often used by car companies, safety advocates, insurers, and regulators who comb the data looking to understand the patterns in how fatalities occur in car accidents and how to minimize them in the future.

It's working.

An improvement of 80% doesn’t happen by accident.

I’ve worked with a small replacement contractor in the area who does something very similar.  Mistakes, discontent customers, and negative reviews used to set off alarms and the owner’s blood pressure.  You likely have a similar reaction to those things happening with your customers.

They chose not to (over)react, but to respond.

The process instituted was to excavate and understand what happened every time this type of thing occurred.  A subset of the installation side of the house would assemble within 24 hours of learning of the problem and issue a report to the owner.  

They answered questions like:

  • What happened?
  • Where did the breakdown in customer expectations or confidence occur?
  • Was the primary culprit sales expectations, scheduling, installation, etc.?
  • How do we make it better for the client?
  • What did we learn from the experience?
  • How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?
  • What policies and procedures can ensure it doesn’t?

They enjoy very high levels of customer satisfaction and the kind of referral opportunities you would expect.

When you excavate an accident or problem for who is to blame, everybody gets defensive and “lawyer’s up” to protect themselves.  When you excavate a mistake or problem to understand, learn from, and improve - you empower and grow your people.

Our goal should be for them to take ownership and responsibility.

When they can own the problem without fear and defensiveness, they can also own the solution.  The more they take ownership at all levels, the less problems we have to deal with.  

It is the path to constant improvement…whether we are talking about auto accidents or the issues you face every day in your business.


  • Are your employees afraid of you?
  • When problems occur, do they brace for impact or move toward solutions to the problem?
  • Do you have processes and procedures in place to help encourage ownership?
  • Is the way you are handling problems actually encouraging more of the same?