My "little" brother (6'2" and 225 lbs) is a constable on patrol (actually, now a Sargent responsible for training and development) in our home town. Talking with him one day about how people process information, he remarked that sometimes the most challenging thing an officer could encounter is an crime scene with several witnesses, each with their own point of view on what "really happened."
I think about that long-ago conversation, sometimes, when speaking with management and leadership teams. Their take on what went wrong and what caused it can, at first, sound quite a bit like the wind-up for a Three Stooges pie fight...only without the pies.
Like the "Rashomon Effect" Perry and I were talking about (based on the amazing Kurosawa movie--think CSI: Feudal Japan in which people posit plausible, but differing accounts of events), blame-shifting and the regrettable inability to parse "what's so" based on the limits of perspective can surely hamstring a team looking to make a quick shift.
See how nicely I said that?
Even more troubling is the tendency of people to cling to their account of events...all the way to the bitter, hopeless (pieless) end.
- It was those people HR hired!
- If accounting could have given us better numbers...
- The IT people can't program worth a damn!
- I blame Bush, the economy, the Chinese, global warming.
- (in sotto voce: it was the CEO's fault!)
What's powerful is the realization that no one "owns" The Truth (said with gravitas)--not even the CEO, who only knows what he or she sees...and little of that with absolute certainty. Even more powerful is the ability to put together a "workable truth" with enough facts with which to make decisions and enough flexibility to quickly shift as more information becomes available.