• Who did something?
• Why it wasn’t cross-checked by his supervisor?
• What was promised to a customer?
• Why didn’t they prepare an ass-cover?
• How you could allow that?
That’s all about the past. And most likely that’s all about witch hunting to find the one to blame and prove you are not the one.
As we’ve been learned by experience above process rarely brings a clear message. He failed. She misunderstood the task. They forgot to agree something. And even in those rare examples that kind of knowledge is most likely useless. Yes, this time PM sucked. So what? Are you happy now? We better go back to find the solution, then.
Anyway, usually you end up with some vague information pointing at misunderstanding between several persons, unexpected issue which popped up in the worst possible moment or a series of events which you can’t blame anyone for, yet they brought you to the placed where you are.
That’s all utterly useless and completely wrong.
First you lose time for witch hunting instead for spending it on looking for a solution. It’s like looking for arsonist instead of firefighting when you see fire all over the place. Very clever indeed. Second you teach your people not to take the risk and to minimize the chance to make the mistake and, as a consequence, to slow down their learning curve. With that attitude in extreme example you can end up with people refusing to do anything until very detailed specification is delivered (and yes, I worked with that kind person some time ago). While you can count time spent on useless activities (and accept it if that’s your will), impact on creativity, commitment and atmosphere in the team is both hard to measure and really painful.
Temptation to follow the witch hunting scenario is strong (several years ago you’d see me quite often in the role of an inquisitor), but really, you have better choices here. I usually try to focus everyone of fixing the situation (firefighting), leaving looking for a reason why it all went wrong (tracking arsonist) for later. That usually satisfies both those who can’t live without looking for ones to blame and those who remember about learning from own mistakes. Quite often when the pressure is taken off no one needs to witch hunt any more and you don’t have to point fingers on each other. The learning part you can make on post mortem sessions where the atmosphere is far from blame game.
Interesting thing is that even in environment focusing on today and tomorrow instead of yesterday I see so often people actually expecting they’ll be blamed for overrunning the schedule, wrong estimates, screwing up the task, bad weather or manager’s hangover. Maybe it lays so deep inside of us, we can’t fully resist?