Taking Responsibility and Pointing Fingers

Ever feel like Deja Vu?

I was in some conversations that reminded me of the IBM commercial in the Dot Com era (I couldn’t find it on YouTube).  But the jist is about integration of a web site and not having many people and chasing down the parts of a solution.

In any project your piece as a developer or systems integrator is often only one part and there are many moving pieces outside your control.  So how do we as a whole react when there are issues.  Often it is a finger pointing exercise.  Been there, seen that and sadly even done that.  This is what was happening in the TV commercial and the web designers were being blamed, but they were off snowboarding.  In this business scenario it is often those who are not present who are blamed.  Not cool.

Then there are the people (which we at Project X Ltd strive to be) who embrace the issue with our fellow technology ecosystem buddies take responsibility for resolving the issue and then finding the root cause and resolving it.  Man is this hard.  It is so easy to go and say, not that is an infrastructure issue they need to resolve it.  Instead it is lets get infrastructure involved and work together.  Funnily this seems so much more enjoyable and productive.  And with all the web conferencing tools there is no reason that we can’t embrace and resolve.  So in the times when it is our fault which it can be, taking responsibility is easy and no-one is pointing fingers.

  1. Graham Boundy Reply

    In situations where blame is being assigned, I like to take it all. That’s my way of stepping up to the problem and breaking the finger pointing cycle.
    “That’s right everybody, I screwed up. Here we are with the mess I made. Can you all help me fix it.”
    Breaks down the walls, stops the finger pointing and gets us back on point, solving the problem.
    You’d also be amazed at how many people step up to their problems and take their share of the responsibility once the ice has been broken.

  2. Stephen Reply

    I am happy to report that I took this approach on a systems issue over the last two days.
    The team did an amazing job of root cause analysis and the fix. And instead of it taking 3 days it took 2 hours and everyone was happy and noone should have been embarassed.
    I am really proud of the team for their approach.

  3. Kim Reply

    Stephen, I think this is my second time on your blog, and funny enough – your post from yesterday hit a home run for me. Seems so simple (and yes engaging and productive) to work together to solve problems, yet why do we succomb to human nature and play the blame game???
    This happens at all levels of organizations – big and small. I have made a conscious effort since the beginning of my career as a project manager to take a collaborative approach to solving problems – at the beginning because I really needed to (I had no idea how to do it myself), but now because I have seen the overwhelming benefit of doing so.
    Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s sabbotaged by those who are more motivated to save face and look good themselves. Sometimes I find myself struggling to be collaborative because of the lack of transparency within a project team…no excuse for not putting in the effort.
    I can tell you that in my experience, there are only a handful of individuals that I have worked with that are brilliant at solving problems by getting everyone involved. When it happens, it’s true magic. It’s an exerience that everyone remembers (cherishes actually) and creates such an inspirational team environment – that will ultimately drive success for the team on their current assignment, and hopefully build this valuable skill and carry it over into future initiatives.
    The onus is on us to demonstrate this behaviour through thick and thin.

  4. jim Reply

    This blog reminds of a story Fred Longstaff told me many years ago. He was talking about what people do when things go wrong. He said you can tell if a developer is self actualized (in a good space), because he says first “What did I do?” rather than “It worked last time and I did not change a thing.” (Must be somebody else) I agree with Stephen that this is a difficult challenge. In coding things, the errors that are hard to find are the characters that do not show up on the screen, formatting and control characters. Just a slip of the finger can produce an error that is hard to find. Variables with similar names is another.
    Great post, Stephen. I am sure it resonates with us all. How many times do we blames Microsoft for our own errors?

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