Zero Defect Mentality

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

The US military calls it Zero Defect Mentality and it is the fastest way to kill motivation and innovation in a workplace.   It is a mindset or culture that says, “Don’t screw up, don’t question decisions, and don’t bring bad news.”   Zero Defect Mentality is the result of a serious failure of leadership.

I am often skeptically asked by my municipal peers:  “How does Auburn Hills get things approved so fast?   How do you get all those good companies to pick Auburn Hills?”  They don’t say it, but I can read between the lines.  Some think we are cutting corners or somehow our community imposes lesser standards.  What they don’t understand is that our success is based on a simple cultural norm … We are not afraid to make a mistake.

Leaders in this City have given us the authority and resources to make decisions, often tough and complex decisions, and have historically respected our judgment.   They know we are competent and will make smart decisions under pressure.  It is important to note that we are also not afraid to confront our leaders (in the appropriate venue) if we feel something they are proposing is a bad idea or can be done better.   Over time, this type of mutual respect builds a culture of trust.  It is a two-way street.

Don’t get me wrong, we are held accountable for our actions and we are expected to use sound judgment.  However, we are not paralyzed by indecision.   We are inspired to perform at a high level.

So, that is a little “inside baseball” as to one of the many reasons for Auburn Hills’ success.   It is a culture of excellence that has been refined over the years, which we value tremendously.