August 19, 2022

Placing Blame Doesn’t Get The Job Done


Last November I lost a job at a company at which I had been working since I graduated college.  Fortunately, I found a new job that I started right after that job ended.  I was assigned a project—my first project that I was to do almost by myself—that had been started in October and my bosses thought it was pretty near completion.

Only it wasn’t.

In my previous job, my team had gotten quite the fun out of finding “who broke the code.”  We would burn an hour finding what the bug was and who did it so we could lay blame as well as have that person fix the problem rather than ourselves.

With my new position and new project there were a lot of problems.  I kept stumbling into things that weren’t done right, that were done poorly, and that were broken by someone before me.  A couple of times I tried to explain to my new bosses that this problem wasn’t “mine”—it belonged to the person before me.

The problem was that placing blame doesn’t get the job done.

  • It didn’t matter that I didn’t put the code in that caused the problem.
  • It didn’t matter that I didn’t make the design decisions that made the code brittle.
  • It didn’t matter that the customer didn’t really define the problem well enough.

The customer demanded a solution, and spending time attempting to affix blame didn’t make the problem go away, and, frankly, it didn’t do anything for my reputation as a programmer.

Why?  Because people don’t hire programmers or teachers or Presidents to spend time trying to figure out who to blame.  They don’t hire these people, necessarily, to spend all their time critiquing what is currently there (they hire consultants for that).

They hire these people for these jobs to get a job done.  In the case of programmers, we’re to get a piece of software written in the best way we know how for the use of our customers—internal or external.

In the case of a President, he’s elected to lead a nation, to address that nation’s problems, to take ownership of what’s there and lead us.

So, let’s all move past blaming our predecessors.  In reality, it’s an outgrowth of the name-calling that people do in high school.  Blaming doesn’t move us forward, it just seeks to build us up at the expense of others.

Don’t tell me about the problems that you were dealt and who caused it, tell me what you’re going to do to fix it.  Though you should know the past, you shouldn’t live there.

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