Sunday, 05 June 2011 00:00

B Is For Blame, F Is For...

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

I have written about, spoke on, and lobbied against blame. Regardless, it just seems like a bottomless pit of contention, conversation, and criticism. People fail to see how to correct a crisis without hastily pointing fingers at failure's first sight. Yet, in the next breath they claim accusations serve no purpose as they attempt to sidestep the fate of blame's gauntlet. We can talk about how we should solve the issues rather than going on the proverbial witch-hunt to find the individual, group, or organization who we think should be burned at the stake and wear the corporate tattoo of failure. Why do we need this and what does it achieve?

Litigatious Societies

Having spent most of my life in the United States, I have often wondered if this trait has its roots in our hunger for litigation—find someone to sue, blame them for what has gone wrong so we can shirk responsibility. I have had my share of conditions that could have taken me down lawsuit lane—my wife's misdiagnosed heart attack or my 23-year-old son's demise due to complications from open-heart surgery; both smelling of physicians failing to do her and his job, respectively. I refrained, however, from dissecting my doctor on a court docket, because... well, I am going down an emotional rat hole. I will come back to this later.

The answer is in my travels from Far East, to North America, to the Middle East. Every culture has the same philosophy—find the person that has wronged you and pay them back. Tastes like sweat revenge.

An Eye For An Eye

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." That line, normally attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, is founded in the Torah. The original line, an eye for an eye, is intended to limit the perpetrator's liability, rather than require retribution. The punishment for a sin should not exceed the original wrongdoing. Does it apply to every act that has an outcome that does not match our desired results? Hardly. We have developed a worldwide culture that has infused this into our corporate culture. We must find and punish someone for every result that does not equate with our expectations.

Corporate Conduct

Understand, changing the cultural is the only way to combat it. It is not one person; it is the culture. Take, for instance, the troubles British Petroleum, Enron, AIG, the US saving and loan scandal of the 1980. You can blame Tony Hayward, Kenneth Lay, Hank Greenberg, or Charles Keating, but hundreds of people had a hand in carrying out their tasks. The thousands of others that profited (never complaining about the too-good-to-be-true-earnings) were the first demanding revenge in the form of a single human being when they lost their money. Pointing fingers at a single person makes us feel better about the failure; it absolves us of being complicit. It falls very short, however, of correcting the quandary.

If you want to live a panacea, where little goes wrong, live the simplest of lives and keep your goals minimal. If you want to advance, excel, and create something new, expect trouble. When it arises, determine the root cause and educate everyone as to what went wrong. Some problems are a more trouble to prevent and you need to resign yourself to a revisit. If they reoccur, determine what plans need to change. You can fire the person that did not plan properly for an earthquake, but that does not stop the next trembler. Learn what went wrong in the planning and use that information to minimize the damage from the next one.

The Lawsuit

As for my chance to castigate a cadre of family health care providers? The action of suing them does not solve anything. Insurance companies pay the bill, lawyers get rich, and the money falls short of compensating for the loss of a loved one or the stress of the emergency room. Spending hours, days, months, and years deposing, testifying, and rehashing a situation that you wish would stop playing over again in your head at two in the morning, only increases the pain. The financial gain is woefully inadequate.

Read 12123 times

Related items

  • Strategy-Execution Gaps

    The statistics on strategy execution are dismal:

    • 59% of middle managers fail at resolving conflicts in corporate strategy.
    • 45% of middle managers cannot name one of the top five corporate goals.
    • 64% of cross department/functional issues are poorly resolved.

    And maybe as you could expect from this:

    • 53% of companies cannot react timely to new opportunities.

    You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that this trajectory is not going to launch most companies’ latest strategic plans successfully. In fact, these data might make you feel that middle management would be better suited as test dummies for the next generation of manned space-vehicle. Granted, the data show there is a dearth of leadership in middle management, but executive tier has a culpable hand.

  • Process Mapping

    Process is at the core of any business. It makes work predictable, repeatable, and transferable. Without it we cannot scale our businesses. However, process can be a bane to making progress. Processes that work for a $10 million company have difficulties supporting a $30 million company. Trying to scale them to a $300 million company will not only fail but not address the issues that larger companies have that were never dreamt of in a smaller organization. Processes need to be discarded, revamped, and built—all of that without creating an overburdening bureaucracy.

    Anytime you need to go someplace, you first have to know where you are. Processes are never static and your company's current state is probably far from where you think it is. Hence, the first step is mapping out you company's current state followed by defining the future state. This is more than a logical map of the process; it must also include physical maps. Whether your process is solely to provide a service (say, website development) or physical (say, manufacturing) there are logistical issues that complicate the process flow. Without fully understanding those nuances, future state processes will not reach the desired efficiencies.

    For more information about process mapping fill out the form to the left and we will get in touch with you.

  • Success vs Culture

    The other day a Latvian student contacted me for my views the connection between culture and success criteria—an important and intriguing topic. After working in Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Israel, United States, and Canada, I wear many scars of both blatant and subtle cultural violations. I also know that within a culture one person's success is often another person's failure. So, after dispelling concerns about clicking on some random email link, I completed her survey (please feel free to take it yourself). In the process, I struck up a friendship with the student, Kristine Briežkalne, who is studying at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration . She has some interesting views and presented me with a Venn diagram showing four frames to a project (business, client, project management, and growth perspectives) and how they intersected. As the diagram is part of her Master's thesis, I will let you ponder the how to label the overlapping areas (an eye-opening exercise).

  • Kill The White Knight

    There is a reason we do not teach classes on fixing failing projects. Many a cynic feels that we simply do not want to teach our trade, however, our reason is far nobler—we should be teaching prevention rather trying to create white knights to save the day. It is the same philosophy as building a fence at the cliff's edge rather than an emergency room at its base. Our language is replete with idioms telling us to look past the symptom and address problems at their root cause. 'An ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure' or 'a stitch in time saves nine.' Please, feel free to supply your own in the comments. Unfortunately, most of our businesses loathe this philosophy, waiting to address an issue until it is irrefutably broken.

  • The Executive-Project Manager Gap

    It was such an innocuous question, "Working on an article; what is the biggest problem you see with project governance at orgs? Can you comment?" Can I comment? Really? That is like cheese to a mouse. Where could I start—bureaucracy, draconian process, poor executive sponsorship, disengaged leaders? Plenty of fodder, because they all lead to project failure. I fired off, "Creating an over bureaucratic morass stifling innovation & implementing process instead of cultivating leaders." Then the maelstrom started and it went directly to the gap between the executives and projects managers. Naomi Caietti, Robert Kelly and I had a great conversation. Most of the thread is below.

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.


PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.