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>Someone takes the decision to dump raw sewage in the river, or toxic waste or whatever. Regardless of how many layers of bureaucracy they hide behind, they are bad people.

The problem is that it's only "bad" when you look at it from the outside. You can point to this person or that person and say, "You're bad," or "You're evil," and smugly congratulate yourself that you would never act in such a fashion. You don't know what pressures or incentives they were subject to. You don't know what other choices they had. Moreover, your approach puts the blame on the line workers - the worker dumping the oil into the storm drain, the truck driver driving 20 hours a day, the manager writing up a justification of why an unreasonable risk is reasonable after all - while assigning no culpability to the leadership of the organization that created the circumstances where those actions were the most reasonable alternative. You expect people to stand up and throw themselves into the gears of the machine even if the inevitable consequence is that they get crushed, and the machine rolls on, heedless.

I used to think in much the same fashion. But then I read a very powerful book: Diane Vaughan's Challenger Launch Decision. I would challenge you to read that book and identify, of all the people involved in the decision to launch the Challenger on that fateful day, which one acted in an evil manner? Which engineer wasn't at least trying to act in the best interest of the organization and the crew?

That's the point I'm trying to make. People can be trying to good, but, because of the information available to them, the incentives they operate under, and the time or social pressure they're subject to, their actions can work towards bad outcomes. Tarring those people as "bad" or "evil" does nothing to change the organization that those people operate under, and simply ensures that the next person in the same position in the organization just makes the same mistakes.




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