38thsignal logo

This is The 38th Signal, a weblog about design, coding, design, experience, design, constraints, cookware, and so much more. Established 2007 in Angola.

Scapegoats take the blame posted by Brad Jul 31, 2007


That new feature just isn't working out. It was poorly conceived, poorly implemented, poorly explained, and poorly marketed. Too bad; it had a lot of potential. Remember? A few months ago, we were all so excited about it. We were going to change the world, no two ways about it. We'd huddle around the water cooler and talk in excitedly hushed tones, using big, important phrases like "mitigate" and "utilize" and "synergize" and "paradigm shift" and "There's no I in team." There was a fire in our belly, and nothing was going to put it out.

But something did put it out. Our roaring belly fire is now a big pile of belly ash. Our feature is a flop. It isn't useful. It isn't fun. It doesn't make any sense, and nobody uses it. Everybody hates it. A complete disaster.

And don't you dare blame me for it.

You know what we need? Someone to take the blame; someone to pay the price. A scapegoat. Someone who tried to help the company through innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. Someone who exemplifies the adjectives on the front page of the company handbook. Someone who would have been a hero if the feature had been successful, but given the circumstances must be painted as a total failure. Someone innocent, but easy to ambush. We all had a hand in this, but it didn't work out. And what do we do when something doesn't work out? Two words, my friends: mob rule. And four more words, too: Survival of the fittest. And an acronym: CYA.

Clearly it wasn't MY fault. Billy over there in design is a complete moron. What the heck was he thinking? Only a complete imbecile would think that our customers would want this feature. He should have never come up with it; I was against it from the start! Or that air-headed developer, Neil: could he possibly have taken any longer to implement this thing? Clearly not. How dare he run in to technical hurdles. What a jerk! I bet I could do it in my sleep, on a TRS-80, in BASIC!

With a scapegoat in place, it becomes easy work for management to take quick action to enact a paradigm shift wherein future failures are mitigated. New resources are identified and utilized to synergize the i-less team toward excellence.

In other words, people are fired.

When failure is assigned to the goats, the perceived weight of failure totally disappears. After all, it was all Billy's fault.

(The working title for this story: Microsoft Word's Bullets & Numbering Feature)

> This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Subscribe to Posts [Atom]
In loving parody of the 37signals weblog Signal vs Noise.