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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Stop Blaming the System!

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AbstractI see it again and again. The suggestion of systems thinkers and Agile writers to stop blaming people and instead try blaming the system.

“It’s not the people who perform badly, it’s the system that doesn’t enable people to perform.”

“It’s not the employees’ decisions that are wrong, it’s the rules and procedures we should get rid of.”

“It’s not the individuals who screw up, it’s the organization that drives everyone to failure.”

Oh, really?

Who created that bad “system”? Did some alien life form impose it on the people?

What are those rules and procedures actually? Are they how we program human beings?

What is the “organization” really? Can we point at it, without pointing to ourselves?

Blaming the System? What System?

Seriously, what is the difference between blaming other people versus blaming the system? It seems to me it’s all the same, as long as we’re not blaming ourselves!

How convenient.

One of my best friends has been hating her job for years, and I’m sure many of her 4,000 colleagues feel the same. How much does it help her switching from blaming her colleagues to blaming the system? I’d say, “blame yourself!

The “system” is 4000 colleagues just like her who make each others lives miserable every day. The “rules and procedures” are people’s own behaviors that they inflict upon each other. And their “organization” only exists because 4,000 people have collectively decided not to quit their jobs.

If you want a bad system to go away you should stop helping harmless abstract things such as systems, rules, and procedures to be turned into a horrible reality. Only people have that power.

Stop blaming the system.

Blame yourself.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Jonathan Lermitage replied on Thu, 2013/03/21 - 2:26pm

I totally agree with you. Nowadays, people are too much mothered. Someone makes a mistake? It is the fault of the system!

Cosmin Mutu replied on Fri, 2013/03/22 - 3:12am in response to: Jonathan Lermitage

 You missed the point... the idea was to blame yourself for accepting a crappy job and not quit instead.

Lund Wolfe replied on Sun, 2013/03/24 - 3:49am

The system and the company are synonymous.  The system is there to minimize the damage done by the weak people.  The higher the percentage of weak people, the better it works.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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