Avoid the blame game between management and engineering

Amid an engineering disaster, you may want to call out bad managers by name, but that's exactly the wrong thing to do

Dear Bob ...

I need quick advice. We've just experienced a serious outage here. It's the result of horrible management decisions that starved the data center and prevented us from engineering a proper installation.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Find out the best way to conduct an IT postmortem. | Keep up on career advice with Bob Lewis' Advice Line newsletter. ]

We've lost a lot of data. I know some tricks that will let us recover most of it. I'm thinking, though, that I should hold the data hostage until senior management fires the evil suits that caused the problem.

I honestly think this is the responsible thing to do. My friends think I'm nuts for considering it and suggested I ask your opinion.

What is it? Fix the immediate problem or fix the root cause -- the idiot managers?

- Steamed

Dear Steamed ...

Don't even think about it. Oh, too late. OK, stop thinking about it. If you hold the data hostage, that would be identifiable, actionable malfeasance, where the empty (not evil) suits' behavior was merely poor judgment.

As a professional, you'll do everything you can to recover the data and get the company back into operation. You'll then write up an after-action review that documents what went wrong (not who is to blame), what was required to fix it, how much luck was needed for the fix to work, how much ongoing risk the company continues to experience in this areas, and what the best course of action would be to prevent a recurrence or facilitate the next recovery.

You'll distribute it to everyone in your chain of command, up to the CEO. From that point forward, it will be up to the decision makers to determine whether they want to invest in the preventive measures you recommend. If they're any good at all, along the way they'll figure out that one or a few management screwups were part of the problem. Identifying them in your documentation would be exactly the wrong thing to do, though. All it would do is make you look like part of the problem -- a blamer rather than a problem solver.

- Bob

This story, "Avoid the blame game between management and engineering," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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