Sunday, 05 June 2011 00:00

B Is For Blame, F Is For...

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I have written about, spoke on, and lobbied against blame. Regardless, it just seems like a bottomless pit of contention, conversation, and criticism. People fail to see how to correct a crisis without hastily pointing fingers at failure's first sight. Yet, in the next breath they claim accusations serve no purpose as they attempt to sidestep the fate of blame's gauntlet. We can talk about how we should solve the issues rather than going on the proverbial witch-hunt to find the individual, group, or organization who we think should be burned at the stake and wear the corporate tattoo of failure. Why do we need this and what does it achieve?

Litigatious Societies

Having spent most of my life in the United States, I have often wondered if this trait has its roots in our hunger for litigation—find someone to sue, blame them for what has gone wrong so we can shirk responsibility. I have had my share of conditions that could have taken me down lawsuit lane—my wife's misdiagnosed heart attack or my 23-year-old son's demise due to complications from open-heart surgery; both smelling of physicians failing to do her and his job, respectively. I refrained, however, from dissecting my doctor on a court docket, because... well, I am going down an emotional rat hole. I will come back to this later.

The answer is in my travels from Far East, to North America, to the Middle East. Every culture has the same philosophy—find the person that has wronged you and pay them back. Tastes like sweat revenge.

An Eye For An Eye

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." That line, normally attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, is founded in the Torah. The original line, an eye for an eye, is intended to limit the perpetrator's liability, rather than require retribution. The punishment for a sin should not exceed the original wrongdoing. Does it apply to every act that has an outcome that does not match our desired results? Hardly. We have developed a worldwide culture that has infused this into our corporate culture. We must find and punish someone for every result that does not equate with our expectations.

Corporate Conduct

Understand, changing the cultural is the only way to combat it. It is not one person; it is the culture. Take, for instance, the troubles British Petroleum, Enron, AIG, the US saving and loan scandal of the 1980. You can blame Tony Hayward, Kenneth Lay, Hank Greenberg, or Charles Keating, but hundreds of people had a hand in carrying out their tasks. The thousands of others that profited (never complaining about the too-good-to-be-true-earnings) were the first demanding revenge in the form of a single human being when they lost their money. Pointing fingers at a single person makes us feel better about the failure; it absolves us of being complicit. It falls very short, however, of correcting the quandary.

If you want to live a panacea, where little goes wrong, live the simplest of lives and keep your goals minimal. If you want to advance, excel, and create something new, expect trouble. When it arises, determine the root cause and educate everyone as to what went wrong. Some problems are a more trouble to prevent and you need to resign yourself to a revisit. If they reoccur, determine what plans need to change. You can fire the person that did not plan properly for an earthquake, but that does not stop the next trembler. Learn what went wrong in the planning and use that information to minimize the damage from the next one.

The Lawsuit

As for my chance to castigate a cadre of family health care providers? The action of suing them does not solve anything. Insurance companies pay the bill, lawyers get rich, and the money falls short of compensating for the loss of a loved one or the stress of the emergency room. Spending hours, days, months, and years deposing, testifying, and rehashing a situation that you wish would stop playing over again in your head at two in the morning, only increases the pain. The financial gain is woefully inadequate.

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