Someone Makes a Mistake: The Hidden Functions in Action

Someone performs a specific function wrong. So, the business wastes several hundred dollars of materials. That is a big deal for this size small business.

Here is what plays out in the group dynamics from vision through relationships to learning. The explanation behind these events is invisible to the participants; they only see the visible actions and feel their emotional responses.


Because the group has a clear vision, they know that this setback is going to impact their ability to achieve the excellent result they wanted. It is going to take the business additional resources, which means that something else is going to get put on hold or money is coming out of a rainy day fund. Also, the mistake is a clear violation of excellence. It affects others’ work, and so the whole group is suffering.

As a result, everyone is upset, even angry. They feel let down, like their hard work is lessened. And they want to understand why the mistake happened. These feelings seem like they are aimed at the person who made the mistake. That person is embarrassed and defensive. He feels like he let the group down.

If the mistake occurs in an organization that lacks a clear vision, then it is nearly impossible for the group to move anywhere from the mistake. Without an explanation for why the error was bad, other than “money”, the group is likely to be tied up in arguments about “well, you did something like this before” and “it wasn’t that bad, yes it was.” Groups without vision lack the clarity of a direction that creates the will to address an issue beyond financial punishment, and the connections between members that allow an individual to self-examine and have a desire to do better.