It’s that time of the project again, something went wrong, and a goat needs to be sacrificed. As a person who is often found to be in charge of projects, I hold my bosses to the same standards as I hold myself, and underlings. If something goes wrong, the problem goes from the bottom, all the way to the top of the chain.
In a simplistic example, assuming there is a dev team, a team lead, a CTO, and then the CEO. If the project fails apart, and there is a firing decision, the CEO MUST have a team debrief. Every single member involved needs to write in their own opinion, what happened. Sure, a project could’ve failed because someone on the bottom didn’t know what they were doing, but at the same time, isn’t it the team lead’s job to make sure they knew? Then isn’t it the CTO’s job to make sure the team lead’s on task? Isn’t it the CEO’s job to make sure the CTO is capable of such actions?
Fact of the matter, incompetence happens at all levels of a corporation and company. Just because there is a scapegoat doesn’t mean the issue has been taken care of. You have a termite infestation, you’ve killed a termite, but the infestation still exists.
As a CEO, you should gather data on various people’s perspective on what the issue is, and formulate your own decision. You have to get a perspective of how things are looking down, and then another perspective of how things look like from below. Just like a game of “communication”, if you don’t know what message the very end received, then you don’t know the message was corrupted along the way, in fact, unless you investigate the “nodes”, you won’t even know where and when things got corrupted. Not debriefing is like allowing your ship be sailing through iceberg ridden waters, without checking for icebergs.
Scapegoating will buy bad management time between the current SNAPFU and the next, but if you were to catch the manager in the act of scapegoating, you can prevent yourself from losing some very talented individuals (human capital), at the same time, preventing the bad manager from gaining power. Think about it this way, once the bad manager sets the tone that anyone who disagrees with his horrible management style will get fired, who will correct his actions? A strong IT company needs to be built on allowing talent, innovation, and best practices to flourish. Allow bad managerial nodes will create a chilling effect, which will ultimate hamper your IT team, and ultimately your business.
As a CEO, debriefing, exit interviews, and what not, are the least you can do. As a board member or investor, I’d expect them to do at least this much. Even the highest level, there is such an assessment, so why wouldn’t you think that as a CEO, you can afford to simply take management’s word for things? Even auditors are brought into the picture from time to time. To improve, you must assess, progress without assessment is most likely just bull excrement.