When something fails, we all are unhappy about it. When developers screw up an important launch, when hotfixes break the system even more, when the site does not go online in sync with related sites, it is a failure. Failures has to be handled.
How do people handle failures? There are different ways. One of the most dangerous and bad ways to handle failures is to start looking for the responsible person and blaming him for errors.
Why is it bad?
Blaming means offence. Offence immediately turns on the deepest and the most relic instinct that we have: the defence instinct. This instinct is so deep that it turns off everything else, including the ability and wish to recover own failure.
When the developer realises that it is his fault, he can either go and rectify the problem or he can prepare him self for the defence. Both cannot be done together.
If the failure happens, the most import questions to ask are:
- What can we do to rectify the problem?
- How fast we can do it?
- Who can do it?
- What we can do to avoid it in future?
See, there is no question: “Whom should we blame?” or “Whom should we punish?”. Those questions are not productive. The person, who is responsible for the failure, would feel bad anyway. Americans say: “Shit happens”. That is enough to say about the problem. It is not about who is responsible, it is about minimising consequences and improving. Minimising consequences and improving is not compatible with blaming.
So next time, when one of your colleagues fails, don't point your finger but rather remember those questions above and ask them aloud. This helps.