Change is the only thing that brings improvement to anything. That change can be sudden, like a paradigm shift; however, this revolutionary adjustment rarely works well in organizations. The most common conversion is a transition and occasionally it is a metamorphic one.

There isn’t a clearly defined beginning or end. There is just a noticeable development that takes place over time. It’s like not seeing someone for awhile and you noticed that they lost some weight, but when you see them every day it’s not so obvious. The same is true within organizations. If managed well and with purpose, these developments can be quite good for the direction of the organization. It brings about positive change that is a metamorphic transformation which carries an organization towards an ultimate goal.

When this metamorphosis doesn’t produce such positive results, it can cripple an organization. Once this change takes place it can take much longer to rectify it than it did to create it. There are a number of things that can happen, but there is one metamorphic transformation that takes place and rips the carpet out from under the feet of progress. That’s when an explanation turns into an excuse.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for things happening or existing. No question about that. Often times the reason(s) cause slowness or interruption of desired actions or results. Once this becomes common knowledge, it can quickly become an excuse for low productivity or poor results.

Here are 5 tips to avoid the wrong kind of metamorphosis that turns explanations into excuses.

  1. Know the problem – The explanation is of a problem. Understand that problem and how it affects things. We apply metrics to performance, so apply metrics to the impact of the problem. In other words, quantify the explanation and then quantify when it would most likely become an excuse. It’s not an exact science, but you need to plan and be aware of what could happen.
  2. Monitor values alignment – If your values allow someone to sandbag and hang it on the explanation, you may want to do a rethink. When you feel things are about to cross the line into excuses territory, address it through culture and values to bring everyone back on track.
  3. Be aware of frustrations – There will be groups of people who are more affected by this unavoidable problem than others. They are the group most likely to develop a less than stellar attitude and drift into the area that embraces the excuse. Pay closer attention to their morale. See what you can do to support them. Visit your recognition program, but you don’t have to make it a federal case. Many times if you acknowledge the difficulty, get your hands dirty with them and put up with the inconvenience along side them, your team will probably have a higher tolerance level for the problem.
  4. Address excuses quickly – Depending on your recruitment process, you could have a few bad apples in the bunch. You know the ones who toe the line of not getting fired and barely doing their job. Your accountability structure has to be solid around the problem. Proper and accurate accountability will keep the problem squarely in the explanation column.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun – Embrace the adage “Laugh to keep from crying.” Create some inside jokes around the problem. Give it a name. Make a mascot and let the team who deals with it best for the week get some goofy ugly trophy. Make the problem a verb and when someone slips up, engage in some good-natured ribbing using the problem as a way to describe the slip up. Life’s not perfect, nor is your organization. Laughter goes a long way!
Where have your explanations become excuses?
  • I am so pleased to see that you have included “Have Fun” in the list. Companies have a vested interest in the happiness of their employees and executives. As “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor shows there is scientific proof that happy people are more productive, and better problem solvers. Change is inherent in all things, and as creatures of habit human beings resist change, and sometimes that is the root of the negativity.

  • Absolutely Kat! I find it curious how so many people think professionalism and responsibility can’t co-exist with fun. Like you pointed out, the more fun things can be, the more productive people become. Thanks for your contribution!