When the “Ogen” software release hit the market, the shit hit the fan. 550 clients had to close down their electrical grid as software bugs caused many “early warning” systems to alert that a disaster was impending.
The CEO, inundated with angry calls, convened a management meeting and ripped his entire team over the coals. The Head of Sales complained that “Engineering will ruin my reputation”. The Head of Software Engineering blamed the “Deployment Unit” for not understanding how to install the software. The Deployment Unit claimed the software was a piece of horse shit. Finance blamed Sales for the fact that “we will face a huge revenue shortage next year.”
Definition-a blaming culture is characterized by shirking of responsibility by shifting it down to the next level, up to the next level, over to a peer, or on to a different unit..
The blaming culture is a mega epidemic, especially since 2008 when jobs become very scarce. Root causes for the blaming culture include-
- Parking the blame for unrealistic goals
- Maximization of the goals of each sub-unit
- Fear of being dismissed
- Email mail/chatting technology
- Lack of personal contact between staff
- Overdose of matrices
- Compromising seen as not worthwhile
- Overdose of “yes-we-can ism” coupled with lack of resources
- Leadership Machiavellian-ism
- “Dumbing” of the workforce due to IT systems replacing common sense
The ONLY way to go about eliminating the culture of blaming is to deal with manifestation of blaming at the top of the organization. Nothing else works. Once the blaming issue is solved at the top, it trickles down to the rank and file within a few years.
In the case above, the CEO knew that the software release was faulty, but gave a “go ahead” because”we can always fix things on fly. None of clients will throw us out because their CTO’s career is dependant on our success”.
For those who are interested on how blame is managed, click here.