The fabric of failure

The fabric of failure

April 28th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

In any job or assignment, there are specific tasks and behaviors that are necessary for the mission or project to be ruled a success or completed.

A few items have been in the media lately on the national and local level that instruct those who are willing to learn. These occurrences have sad similarities and led to similar, very common results.

First, the Government Services Administration, the federal government's procurement and management agency of more than 12,000 employees, has been publicly embarrassed over the extravagant $823,000 price tag of an October 2010 conference that provided staffers eight trips to a resort city for planning, at an additional $150,000.

The GSA scandal, now under congressional investigation, has attempted in the four investigative hearings already convened to justify the waste of taxpayer dollars spent for "a clown, a mind reader and the manufacture of commemorative coins awarded to employees."

Second, 12 Secret Service agents and another 12 military personnel were found to have lost focus in their advance security work on behalf of the president of the United States in Cartagena, Columbia for the Summit of the Americas. These 24 individuals tasked with protecting our president from harm engaged in "egregious misconduct," as noted by Paula Reid, the new Secret Service boss for the South American region. Reid urgently packed up the dirty two dozen and sent them back to the U.S. to untangle their web of misbehavior involving at least 20 prostitutes and heavy drinking.

Then, locally, there are those at Signal Mountain Middle-High School whose task it was to chaperone seniors on a cruise that had been school sanctioned. The agreement reached before their departure seemed reasonable and clear: Behavior permitted on the trip would be the same behavior permitted on campus back home.

That simple rule was violated not just by uncooperative students, but also adults.

So, what are the common threads that weave a tapestry that reflects these three events?

Arrogance: For reasons we may never understand, there are often people in groups, organizations or on teams who believe that the rules just don't apply to them. In that wrongly held notion, those few whose narcissism pushes their behavior and influence to the edge, if not over, the stated limits, jeopardize the group's plan, mission or goal.

Selfishness: Closely following the thread of arrogance is the selfish pursuit of an individual's personal desire. In these three instances, the idea of the group or organization is secondary to the individuals involved. The "egregious misconduct" of the few shows the disregard for the group or organization for the price of personal gratification.

The lack of accountability: Whether it's perceived or actual, the belief that the rejection of standards or stated goals will have little to no consequence always will be a thread in the fabric of failure. Those who are likely to break or stretch the rules will do just that in an environment of stratified rules or selective enforcement.

The lesson learned?

There are countless folks in any group or organization who operate within the bounds of their job description, follow the rules and stay on point. These team players are captured in legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi's statement: "Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a civilization work."

Conversely, the few who thumb their noses at rules garner the spotlight of scrutiny, erode the trust of an institution or team and harm the reputations of those who remain committed.

There is no "I" in team, but there is in failure.