Gaming the System

Here's another quote from the Harvard Business Review article about Pixar. Last week I wrote about the difference between communicating and deciding. Today it's an interesting quote about postmortems. I am a big fan of doing postmortem reviews of projects, mostly because I am a huge fan of learning. Organizations are simply not intentional enough about learning, and that is a big reason why many fail to live up to their potential in my opinion. We often feel we are too busy to take time to review a project after it's done, and that is a mistake. But postmortems aren't so easy, as the quote illustrates:

One thing I observed was that although people learn from postmortems, they don't like to do them. Leaders naturally want to use the occasion to give kudos to their team members. People in general would rather talk about what went right than what went wrong. And after spending years on a film, everybody just wants to move on. Left to their own devices, people will game the system to avoid confronting the unpleasant.

It reminds me of an important lesson: learning is not aways pleasant. Come to think of it, a lot of important things are not ALWAYS pleasant, like leadership, growth, change, success, winning, doing the right thing, being a good parent, etc. What is our obsession with unpleasantness that we would actually game well-designed systems to help us learn and grow?

Jim Stroup did a nice post last week about developing individual leaders. I wonder if we need to be screening for the ability to confront unpleasantness?