The Right Of Way vs. Doing The Right Thing

This evening I was driving home, we almost got in an accident. We came upon a police car with it’s lights on, parked on the inside lane (presumably having pulled someone over).  We passed on the outside lane slowly and as we did the car who had been pulled over started to pull into our lane and I slammed on the brakes in case they continued their merge (fortunately, they stopped as well).

Nothing like almost getting in an accident right in front of a police officer.  The obvious question that you begin to wonder is, “Would it be my fault if I had hit them?”  My passenger asked me if I had the right of way, which I did.  Of course, it doesn’t really matter who had the right of way, since the better option is not to have an accident at all.

This got me thinking about how often in organizations, people take actions that precipitate from their perceived “Right Of Way”.  The “No one can blame ME if it doesn’t work out, I did my part” mentality causes an inordinate amount of slow down in large organizations due to failed projects and political bickering.  It’s also why small companies can catch them entirely off guard.  The Small company is seeking to do the right thing for the industry, where as the individuals in the big company  are focused on doing the right thing for themselves.

In large companies, people have a harder time seeing how their work affects the bottom line, and this can easily turn inward so that people instead focus on their Right of Way by trying to move their career forward, rather than the right thing of trying to make the company more successful.

If I know my colleague is going to have a hard time completing something without some additional help, and I only do my part and not helping them, then we both fail. It doesn’t matter after the fact whose fault other people think it was — WE FAILED. We must keep the bigger picture in mind and focus on the success of the endeavor and avoid ever thinking, “Well, I did my part”. That is the beginning of the end.






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