Sep 19, 2011
Outside my office I have an 8.5 x 11 copy of Spirit Lexicon (Online Dictionary) entry no 1,210. The word: “Blamestorming”
Spirit Lexicon has “blamestorming” defined as;
1. Business meeting that devolves into finding fault for projects gone wrong rather than looking for successful results.
2. A discussion between colleagues involving major finger pointing. Its usage example reads a follows: Blamestorming can last hours until a culprit is identified for each step of a failed project. In excess, it can be characteristic of weak management. See also: ‘Postmortem.’
(Apparently this is a real word, I was able to find a definition in both “Webster’s’ and “The Oxford” dictionaries. This also just accentuates the case that this is a real business epidemic.)
Blame: First Blush and an Anecdote
When I first read this I thought it was hilarious, then I thought it was ironic, and then I was just irritated because I realized how much of it was going on around me. A real problem that I can say sadly has been a part of just about every organization I have worked in.
So what is the benefits of blaming others? The real answer is “There aren’t any,” however, the reason that it happens most often is that people feel the requirement to let it be known that they are not accountable for things that don’t go to plan. The blame is then dished out to protect a reputation, a job, a company, an idea, or a plethora of other things.
The problem is that once the blame is passed out, nothing has been accomplished. Even in the event that blame can clearly be accounted for and distributed. Let’s consider an example…
Joe Somebody misses the deadline of a submission of a proposal and the company is therefore disqualified from the RFP.
Well, it is pretty clear that Joe is at fault, and that blame can easily be applied. Which brings a question, Now what? Now that we know Joe is at fault have we rectified the business problem? My first assessment would be no, we haven’t actually fixed anything.
The Only Real Purpose of Blame
Applying blame serves only one purpose, ever. So to better leverage the “Blamestorming” that may go on require it of your team to ask this question…
Now that we are aware of the problem, what can we do (are we doing) to make sure that we learn from this, improve it, and ideally these mistakes are not repeated?
Ask this, answer this, and then move on.
A People Problem
There is a two prong issue that leaders should keep a mindful eye on in the real of blame and the association of it. First, if there is a person that is continually being blamed for problems, the above principle purpose of learning from “blame” may be the need to eliminate that person. Clearly they aren’t learning from the past challenges and/or they aren’t capable of applying the learning’s. In that case, a clean break may be best for all stakeholders. The second prong is similar for the person applying blame. Any team member that feels the need to immediately point the finger is a problem. It doesn’t really matter if they are right; regardless to being right or wrong their tendency to blame is cancerous inside of almost any organization and it must be removed quickly to support morale and continuous improvement.
The culture of blame is not a new subject, it isn’t a new problem, and it certainly isn’t going away any time soon. However, to improve our leadership we must change the way we think about blame. We must leverage it for good and we must eliminate those that perpetuate it both in its creation and application.
Starting today, be the one that doesn’t point the finger. Take ownership of mistakes and learn from them. Build your teams to think not about who to blame, but how to get better.
It seems like common sense right…so why is this so darn hard? Perhaps you can tell me?