It is important to understand the problem. Even more important to understand the cause of the problem.
Many people confuse the cause of the problem with blame. Blame, no matter how well placed, rarely gets you closer to the solution, even creates distraction that prevents forward steps.
In what way can we fix (mitigate, prevent) the problem is a more useful question.
“Oh, man, they did it again!” Ralph exclaimed, covering his face.
“And how did you help them screw up?” I asked.
Ralph peeked between his fingers. “What do you mean? I didn’t have any part in this.”
“I know, I know,” I agreed. “But if you did contribute to the problem, what was it?”
Ralph started to chuckle, hands now propped on his hips. “Well, if I did have a hand in this, it was picking this group of knuckleheads in the first place. And I probably didn’t explain what needed to happen very well.”
“Indeed. As a manager, before we jump to blame the team, it is always important to ask the question.
“How did I contribute to the problem?
“The Manager is usually at the center of what goes wrong.” -Tom
“It’s like they fight all the time,” Sheldon explained. “Each manager thinks they know how to run the whole company, if I would just step out of the way.”
“What’s happening, explain the friction?” I asked.
“Once again, the project was late and when it was delivered to the client, it didn’t work. Pretty simple explanation. It’s the fix that’s complicated. When we only did one project at a time, everything seemed to work well. On time, on budget, never missed a beat. Then we got two projects, three. We now have seven projects in-house and they all have problems, missed deadlines, cost overruns and quality issues.”
“The project manager is ripping his hair out. The response he is getting from all the other managers is a mix of blame and excuses,” Sheldon shrugged.
“What do they say?” I prompted.
“Want a list?” Sheldon chuckled.
- The Sales Manager says he asked Engineering for timetable before he promised a delivery date.
- The Engineering Manager says there were too many changes in the scope of work.
- The Ops Manager says the timetable from Engineering was unrealistic.
- The Accounting Manager says the budget didn’t allow for any profit.
- The Marketing Manager says that if he had known the priority of the client, he would have put more people into the product rollout.
“So, who is right?” I smiled.
“That’s the problem. They are all right. Every word is true.”