Each group in our laboratory informatics industry shifts the blame to other groups for the problems in our industry. The software vendors like to point out that it’s the consultants who cause the problems, the consultants point back to the software vendors, and each group secretly talks about how customers don’t take enough responsibility for their problems. Additionally, the ELN people blame the LIMS people who blame the ELN people right back.

Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a software vendor where they came right out and said to me that it’s “people like you, Gloria” (they meant consultants) that screw-up their projects. Of course, not having done any of the things they were complaining about, I took exception to the assertion!

But let’s be honest about this — human beings do like to complain. It’s part of our nature. Sometimes, we like to vent. Sometimes, there are truly things outside our control and we like to vent about them. Yet, there are times when we could make changes and we don’t. There are times when we should take responsibility for our own failures and we don’t. Sometimes, we blame other people when they really have nothing to do with our problems just because it feels good to vent.

Currently, I’m on a project that involves a variety of people that includes not just a number of company employees, but also a variety of people from different consulting companies (one of whom is the software vendor, I should add). Somehow, rather than an adversarial relationship, we have created a team atmosphere, where people will take responsibility for other people’s issues. When there is a problem, we don’t look for blame and necessarily shove it back to the person who is “at fault” but might just take care of the issue, right then.

Before I make us sound too-good-to-be-true, I don’t mean that we never complain or gripe during breaks or lunch. However, when we’re actually working, we spend our time more productively than that. When we find someone’s error, we just tell them about it. Sometimes, we even fix it for them. When someone starts a program that they haven’t had a chance to test, if it’s in someone else’s testing path, they might take on the testing of that piece.

Things are so extremely productive that other teams are astonished at our team spirit and ability to work through our issues lists, and none of the other teams are terrible, either, so it’s quite a compliment. 

Additionally, it’s occurred to me how much time it saves that we don’t spend our time on activities to cover ourselves in case someone is looking to blame someone. Without all those extra e-mails and voice mails, most of us actually can keep-up with the communications we receive and most of what we get is information that’s important and timely. Not having to spend our time worrying about the extra politics has given us time to create good tools to share information and track our work, for just another example.

At the end of the day, blowing of a bit of steam is probably good for most of us. But when it prevents us from accomplishing our goals and working together or allows us to pretend that someone else is continually at fault for our own problems, that’s when it becomes a bad thing. The secret is not to create a project without problems but to create one where the problems get addressed in an appropriate and timely manner. Now, I will take off my project manager hat and move along to something else…

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises