Office politics and the blameless culture

After months of investigation, David Taylor has uncovered exactly who is to blame for all those risky business decisions that go...

After months of investigation, David Taylor has uncovered exactly who is to blame for all those risky business decisions that go wrong

David Taylor

Inside Track

Whodunnits seem to be "in" at the moment. Not just on the TV, with a revival of Agatha Christie novels, but also inside organisations.

I am not talking about the stabbings in the back that happen all the time, I am talking about something much more sinister... who made all those decisions that went wrong?

It is easy to find people who made the right decisions, you can find them in company magazines, on the notice board, or walking around offices with a sticker on their backs saying "I'm the clever one". Indeed, sometimes there are far more people taking ownership, credit and glory for things that go well than there are people in an organisation.

However, just try to find the person who took all the risky decisions that may have gone wrong and you will draw a blank.

Take IT for instance. Who is it who?

  • owns this project that has been renamed 'suicide'?

  • chose PCs as the "standard" model?

  • co-ordinates e-business initiatives?

  • wrote such boring and irrelevant job descriptions?

  • invented performance- related pay?

  • decided what acronyms we should use in IT?

    I used to think that inside every organisation decision making has grown so time consuming and complex that no one person would ever be held accountable for anything. But the volume of people that have made excellent decisions all their lives scotched that one.

    Then I was told it was the last person who left the department or company. However, how could an analyst programmer who left a company in 1997 be held responsible for the latest project disaster, three years later?

    After months of exhaustive investigation, I can now reveal the answer. I now know who makes all the big decisions inside every organisation, indeed inside every department.

    The answer is "them".

    Think about it. Whenever you ask who took key global decisions that are not popular, or have gone wrong, the answer will be "they did".

    And so, clearly, lying deep inside every organisation, we have "them". "They" are directly responsible for each and every decision that can't be pinned on an individual.

    Is it the board, the IT management group or the others in your team?

    You might think it is a bit dramatic to liken this all to the world of murder mystery, but that is exactly what is happening. "They" are being blamed for everything that goes wrong and the associated gossip and negativity is slowly strangling our companies and IT departments.

    So my advice, if you want a blameless life, is to never ask questions, give an opinion, take ownership, take a risk, put your name to anything, talk to anyone, or even breathe too loudly, just in case.

    David Taylor's Inside Track. A provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now. The book is the latest in the Computer Weekly Professional Series, published by ButterworthHeinemann: 01865-88180

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