Editor’s note: We have already introduced this friendly animal to you in 2019 with the article “Blame Management.” For the following text we thought it would be appropriate to get our “scapegoat” out of the archive once again!
After part 1 of this work finally exposed the perfidious and anti-democratic machinations of the big brewery mafia without mercy, now the announced continuation.
What has Sars-Cov2 to do with guilt? The answer is short and to the point: I have an suspicion.
But first to the factual considerations. Will the pandemic lead to project cancellations and postponements? Of course it will. We can already observe this. Short-time work, reduced income and so on inevitably lead to projects being reprioritised. But can’t other problems not directly attributable to the virus be hidden behind this? Absolutely! The suspicion is obvious that “the new virus” will be seized upon as the excuse for all kinds of bad luck, omissions and inadequacy.
What makes the virus such a are wonderful candidate for such manoeuvres? It is better suited than providence because it is concrete. Dependencies on other projects are also concrete and are often used as an explanation, if there is the slightest opportunity to distract attention from one’s own project. Contractors too are ideal targets of blame, as they will very likely be gone at some point. However, the virus has huge advantages over the above mentioned: it cannot defend itself against blame and is not just external to your organization, but any organization. The danger of encountering it again (beyond medical circles) is zero. No disadvantages to be expected.
In addition, the virus is also suitable at every level of the hierarchy as an object for apportioning blame, at any rate much better than providence or other disasters. Hurricanes, floods and stupidity itself may also be suitable candidates, but compared to the virus they have the disadvantage that a certain predictability is inherent in them, at least as far as the expected duration of the blame assignment is concerned. Okay, I admit stupidity is an inappropriate example. Nevertheless, although it may take weeks and months to overcome the consequences of such natural disasters, possible second waves, extension of short-time work, etc. open up the possibility of blame being placed in the future. This is pre-announced, acknowledged and accepted unpredictability, like the quest of Shangri-la. All decisions made and also future decisions have, at least for a considerable period of time, no personal consequences.
And that brings me now to the second aspect under consideration: the consequences of one’s own actions. The drunk driver is held accountable in case of an accident, the sailor who goes out despite bad weather is in danger of drowning. We find examples of this kind in large numbers. But what about the economy, for example? Isn’t it an essential difference between a manager and an entrepreneur that an entrepreneur usually bears the consequences of his actions, while managers (can) protect themselves against the legally provided liability mechanisms by means of insurance? Is it acceptable for companies to receive state subsidies in the past for completely failed company policies in order to iron them out (e.g. state banks and car manufacturers)?
Do we as a society want to (continue to) allow people to make decisions (for us) who are not affected by the decisions themselves, i.e. who do not have to bear the consequences? For some areas this will have to be the case. Doctors, for example, have to be able to decide about life and death without being threatened by the same fate, why is, I think, self-explanatory. But to come back to my specialism, how should this be regulated in projects? Should project management and project team be made ‘liable’ for decisions made by them? Will this ultimately lead to no decisions being made at all, or could this lead to better decisions? What could models look like that reconcile both?
I strongly believe that these issues should be discussed urgently and I would like to invite our readers to join me. As a small incentive, I’m offering the first respondent a piece of the best Swiss chocolate gift-wrapped. My intention is to start bearing the consequences of my writing. So here’s my bet: If there is another unexpected delay in the opening of the “new” Berlin airport, I already know who’s to blame. Should it not come to that, it will be celebrated as “despite Sars-Cov2”. And the first reader who can show that in the case of BER neither one nor the other has happened will also receive a piece of said chocolate. Please send a comment (harlequins are excluded, they will get one anyway).
German text: RGE
English translation: BCO
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