Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blame and Inheritance - Really? C'MON

I'd like to talk to the current administration as well as all executives, consultants, business leaders and responsible adults about blame and inheritance for a few minutes.

A big part of what we do at Blue World includes estate planning so I have a solid grasp on the concept of inheritance.

Another major area is turn-around consulting for troubled businesses so I am painfully familiar with blame.

I have been engaged as everything from consultant to CEO in troubled companies. The earliest conversation with remaining management is, unfortunately, what I characterize as a therapy session. It is often helpful to understand the history of decision making (or lack thereof) that led to a company's trouble. Most commonly, however, this "analysis" devolves quickly into blaming a person, people or circumstance(s) for the problems. Once this occurs I stop and say "blame me." "I will accept total blame for all the trouble this firm is in right now." Then I ask the important question. "Now that we have identified a single culprit, consolidated all blame and assigned it to me will someone tell me how that helps?"

Feeling better about making sure blame is assigned to someone else, meaning no one blames you, is not productive. Period. Assign blame to anyone or anything you want to. I have never seen the assignment of blame solve a single problem or turn around a single company. So, please, enough with people of responsibility assigning blame. Let's, instead, have mature adults objectively review history to analyze the viability of altering non-productive policy or process in furtherance of an effort to improve company performance, huh?

I have had successes and failures just like everyone else. I admit I have learned a great deal more from the failures which, inevitably, led to more successes. But I also admit that the successes are more fun. In either case I reject the notion of "inheritance" as it pertains to professional, executive level turn-around situations. Allow me to explain.

Assume the following: A young man is the son of a business owner. He is 20 years old, in college, care-free and never has really been interested in Dad's business. Dad passes away unexpectedly. The son is now the sole shareholder of the business and learns the business is in big trouble. This is someone who has, legitimately, inherited a problem.

Now assume that I am the CEO of Blue World Asset Managers, Ltd. I am contacted by a company in distress and asked to evaluate it for purposes of turnaround. I go in with my highly skilled and experienced team of professionals. We look at the books, interview the management, the rank and file, customers, vendors, etc. to determine the viability of a turnaround effort. If we feel there is a shot at success we develop a plan to attain that success and then begin to implement and execute the plan. If I am successful I am very happy to take the credit. If I fail I am the first to accept the responsibility. (Note I did not say "take the blame").

Following failures in turn-around it is not uncommon to get a pat on the head and be told "it's not your didn't create the inherited an impossible situation... ALL B.S.! Why? Because we CHOOSE the fight. We do not inherit anything! We come in, evaluate a situation, identify a problem, put our hand in the air and say "PICK US, PICK US. WE THINK WE CAN FIX IT." We did not inherit anything!

Perhaps you see where I'm headed. I do not attempt to make political commentary but politics cannot be separated from economics. Political policy driven by philosophy and ideology have a profound impact on the business and economic environment.

Our country, and the free world, is being led by an administration who continues to blame the preceding administration and talk about the mess they've inherited. When you campaign for over two years and spend a hundred million dollars to frame a set of problems, propose solutions and scream "PICK ME PICK ME. I CAN FIX IT." from the highest peaks you MAY NOT claim to have inherited anything. You signed up, made your pitch, won the contract and are expected to deliver, no different than any other new management team or outside consultant.

We can have intellectual, thoughtful discussions and debates regarding policy and economic theory. That can be very productive. But to have adults of responsibility, nay even more, the top executive in the world and his A-team continue to discuss blame for the mess they inherited is unproductive and irrelevant. It terrifies me and it should terrify you, too.

We have over 16 million people unemployed, over a trillion dollars in budget deficit, uncontrolled borders, an unprecedented foreclosure rate, a looming commercial debt catastrophe and a host of additional daunting challenges to our sovereign nation, not just a single company.

So...OK, blame the prior executive and his administration. Assume you get us ALL to agree with you 100%...then tell me how that helps.

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