Management’s usually to blame when things go wrong

‘Remember the old saying: “a fish rots from the head”? When things go wrong in a company it’s almost always due to poor management.’
Issue date : 26 September 2008

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Sadly, as I expected, THE MANAGEMENT of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), which is responsible for the preparation and delivery of team SA at the Olympics, is taking no responsibility for their poor performance. Before the games even ended, SASCOC president Moss Mashishi was bemoaning the lack of funding – not their fault of course – as the only reason for the team’s failure. “Between Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, R60 million was spent on preparing our athletes,” he said recently. “During the same period, Australia spent some R3,6 billion.”

 Conveniently, he doesn’t mention how much funding went into training the Jamaican, Tobago and Trinidad teams and all the other teams that beat us in the medal count. Before our athletes set out for Beijing, SASCOC announced a target of 10 medals – six from swimming, three from track and field athletics and one from rowing. What Mashishi doesn’t seem to recognise is the impact of the chaotic state of administration within SASCOC.

Remember the old saying: “a fish rots from the head”? When things go wrong in a team, an organisation or a company it’s almost always due to poor management. Great managers achieve great results, no matter the odds against them, and they always hold themselves accountable for poor results. Great managers give the credit to their team for success and take the blame when things go wrong. But managers all over the world duck responsibility and accountability when the proverbial poop hits the fan and we seem to have perfected the art in Africa, where even governments set bad examples.

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A businessperson from Tanzania, Ali Mufuruki, recently addressed an Africa Business Leaders forum in a hard-hitting speech entitled The Africa Excuse Game Must Stop Right Now. He said, “Save for few exceptions, the overwhelming majority of African countries emerged from centuries of colonialism more than four decades ago. The problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leadership to rise to responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” He went on to say, “We have blamed the Sahara desert for its inhospitable climate; we have blamed the tropical climate for its effects on our health; we continue to blame slavery and colonialism when 80% of Africa’s population does not know what life was like during colonial times and we complain of unfair global trade.”

The result of this “management excuse game” is plain to see in Africa. Meltdown in Zimbabwe, chaos in Darfur, Northern Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire, African leaders excelling in the art of begging for economic aid, famine relief, Aids drugs and military assistance to end wars they were so good at starting. Without acceptance of the notion of individual responsibility and accountability, this is what happens.

 It may be happening around you, but you dare not let it happen in your areas of influence and control. If things start going wrong, put all your energy into getting the management right. Remember that if you have success, give the credit to your team. It you experience failure, take the blame. These are the hallmarks of great managers. – Peter Hughes ([email protected] or call (013) 745 7303). |fw