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Blame storming – one of the signs of weak management

by Mark P. McDonald  |  July 20, 2009  |  6 Comments

Weak management manifests itself when companies find themselves under pressure.  Blame storming is one of those signs.  Defined as meeting where people admire the problem, describe how things got that way and were to place blame and responsibility.  I first heard the term watching a commercial for Comcast, a U.S. based communications company.

Blame storming is an obvious tongue-in-cheek version of brainstorming.  However instead of an open-ended discussion to generate new ideas a blame storm is a closed-ended focus on figuring out how to make them selves look good by making others look bad. 

Weak managers flock to blame storming.  It provides them with a way to retain responsibility while shifting accountability to others.  That is the essence of weak management, perpetuation of their own position in the face of challenging economic times.  You know that blame storming is active when you find managers defending themselves by taking the following actions:

  • Calling performance review meetings that have the tone of inquisition
  • Sending their teams off to gather information to justify their operations
  • Redefining the scope of their work to focus on their successes, even redefined success
  • Shifting lower performing responsibilities out of their organization

Weak managers separate their own circumstances from those of the company, the customers and the stakeholders.  Blame storming fills that gap and gives energy to weak managers as they keep the debate internally focused rather than figuring out how to create value in the marketplace.

Combating blame storming can seem difficult.  Weak managers want to keep their focus on what happened and who should be responsible.  This happens at a time when the company needs to keep their energy concentrated on the marketplace, what needs to happen and how you will work together to make it happen.  

Strong managers will overcome blame storming through a combination of transparency, focus on performance and an eye on the customers and the future.  Using this combination, strong managers need to push past weaker peers, and in some cases superiors to give the enterprise the thing that it needs most – results in the marketplace.

“We are where we are.”  This simple statement is perhaps the most powerful statement against a blame storm.  In one phrase it tells your people to move forward rather than look back, to separate what has happened to what needs to happen, to get on with creating future success.  It also tells people that we will assess performance latter, but now its time to get to work.  I have personally felt the power of that statement and used it a manager to get teams turned round and going.

So what do you do from where you are? 

Get back to business through the following set of actions:

  • Start with a clear set of facts about the current situation – you have to know where you are in order to figure out where to go.
  • Use these facts to size up the issues you face and determine the actions needed to resolve those issues – keep the team focused on the issues and marketplace.
  • Give people the resources to focus on the most important issues first – there is many things you can do, and only a few things you must do.
  • Measure their progress based on facts and be ready to adjust as market conditions – things will change, particularly when you are changing them.
  • Repel the desire to affix blame – the time for performance evaluation comes when things are stable, not while they are in flux.

Blame storming is perhaps the most visible sign of weak management.  Weak managers searching for blame erode you company’s confidence and ability to produce results when the results are needed most. 

Executives leading in these tough times need to take the wind out of the blame storming, set weak managers aside, and get back to the business.

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Category: leadership  personal-observation  signs-of-weak-management  

Tags: business-leadership  business-management  personal-obseravtion  signs-of-weak-management  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

Thoughts on Blame storming – one of the signs of weak management

  1. William Bouffard says:

    I am an author writing a business management book and would like to contact Dr. Mark McDonald…

    I would like to get his permission to quote from his article;

    Blame Storming – One of the Signs of Weak Management, Jul 20,2009

    Your help in putting me contact with him would be greatly appreciated…

    William Bouffard
    San Diego, CA

  2. […] Blame storming – one of the signs of weak management […]

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