“We got it done, but it was ugly,” the manager said, shaking his head in disbelief. Miscommunications, lack of communication, an inexperienced team leader and management on vacation resulted in cost over-runs exceeding $50,000, delayed implementation and loss of customer respect and confidence. The manager lamented that this was not an unusual experience. It happened more often than he wanted to admit.
We’ve all experienced these “ugly” scenarios at one time or another. But it seems that there’s a breeding ground for ugly outcomes in many organizations. People are going a hundred miles an hour, multi-tasking and taking on more as a result of reduced staffs. People are trying to cope with downsized environments and a sluggish economy. The demands and expectations are high and resources and clear communication are often scarce. A lot of things can slip through the cracks in this kind of culture.
Being in B.E.D. is the Breeding Ground
An environment like this can become toxic and counter productive. When a workplace is in B.E.D. (Blame, Excuses and Denial), people often react impulsively with each misstep, and more mistakes happen. Mistakes are like rabbits… they multiply! No wonder things turn out “ugly.”
As the mistakes multiply, people spend their time fighting fires. Some people complain about how thing are a mess and ask “when will ‘they’ ever learn?” Others wish they had the tools and information so they could do a good job the first time. Still others pat themselves on the back for being a good fire fighter.
When asked what happened and what could have been done differently, people will say they don’t have time – or they think don’t have time – or won’t take the time…to step back and assess so it won’t happen again. That’s just more Blame, Excuses and Denial.
Taking Your O.A.R. Will Alter Your Outcomes
The flip side of Blame, Excuses and Denial is when there is an environment of Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility.
The first thing is to have a person who is responsible for the overall process or project to assure successful completion. In addition, each person on the team must take full ownership for their role in the project or process implementation. In the opening scenario, when things became “ugly,” each person thought someone else would handle it or they “didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes” or overstep their bounds. In a culture where people are in B.E.D., there’s a “not my job” mentality. There’s no ownership for the results produced.
So next thing that is needed is to have clear accountabilities. In this era of doing more with less and matrix reporting structures, clear accountabilities are essential. There needs to be a hand-off process so people know who is responsible for doing what and by when.
The choice of an inexperienced team leader in the first example wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, but in this scenario, accountabilities were unclear. He lacked ownership of both the process and the results and there was no one overseeing the rookie. Now that’s a bad combination.
In a healthy and successful work environment, there is clear and on-going communication about project goals, accountabilities expectations and outcomes. There are established benchmarks for monitoring the people and project, as well as a defined communication process. If something is missing or unclear, members of the team are expected to be responsible for asking for clarification.
It’s been said that for every hour spent in planning, you will save three hours in implementation. When leaders and teams take ownership, accountability and responsibility for planning a project or implementation of a new process, it will save time, money and employee morale.