It's NOT my data...
- "That's what's in the system."
- "That's what the sales team entered."
- "That's what the customer told me."
A more subtle manifestation of the same attitude might look something like "You can have the data, but don't ask me what it means. You'd have to ask so-and-so about that." And when you ask "so-and-so" he directs you to "what's-her-face," who tells you to ask her supervisor, who explains that they're just doing it the way the Standard Operating Procedure tells them to. In this chain of inquiry, everyone is abdicating their own responsibility to understand how their work fits into a larger picture. It's a form of willful ignorance.
In his motivational work, Christopher Avery uses a model for responsibility that describes several responses that all come before actually taking responsibility for a situation:
- Lay Blame
The engineer in me sees a certain appeal to "not my data" situations. In the extreme, they're a great challenge in reverse engineering. Every steps yields more questions than it answers, and opens new places to explore for broken processes and more denial of responsibility. It's like a software debugging exercise that leads you into deeper and deeper through twists and turns of function callbacks until suddenly you discover that critical nugget of information that finally allows you to describe the end to end flow of information, and the real impacts of poorly implemented processes or policies.
The real-world corporate director in me sees situations that need to be addressed, supervisors to be educated or replaced, policies and procedures to be changed -- all great places for change and growth -- but also, much less enthusiastically, politics to be navigated.
There are always multiple perspectives to any situation. Teams and organizations don't usually evolve what may appear as negative attitudes out of ignorance or malice alone. Often, other negative influences or behaviors lead to a culture that once served a valuable purpose, but may no longer yield more benefits than harm as the previously negative influence dissipate. The final in this series will present situational counter-points to some of the arguments I've presented.