Admitting Failure, Rewriting the book on Burying Mistakes

Admitting failure

When you have to move to plan B, did you learn anything from what went wrong with Plan A?

This morning I came across the Admitting Failure website. This fantastic site, a collection of well intentioned projects gone wrong, is the brainchild of Engineers without Borders, a volunteer group of Engineers who commit to doing engineering projects around the world. It’s an offshoot of their original “Failure Reports” that they compiled each year to detail projects that had not worked out as planned or not survived after they left.

Most businesses don’t keep “Failure Reports.” Most prefer to bury the mistakes as quickly as possible and move on, so perhaps it’s not unexpected that it took the analytical mind of engineers to not only catalog and categorize their mistakes but actually share them publically.  (By the way, physicians do it too, with their Morbidity and Mortality conferences where they review cases gone wrong).  What was particularly interesting was that the public website came out when one of  the participating engineers realized that the volunteer teams began to actually look forward to reviewing the annual “Failure Reports” to see what they could do differently.

The format of each story is fairly simple, What you set out to do, what happened, what went wrong, what could you have done differently, what do you do differently now? But inside each one is a world of truth. About setting clear expectations, trusting your gut, not being swayed from a proven success formula by outside pressure to hit a goal, knowing your customer.

We fail. We fail often. For every heartwarming “feel good” success or rocketing business success, there is a landscape littered with failures. The challenge is to learn how to fail forward, so the next time, the learning is faster and moves you to a higher ground.

Looking for a methodology on failing fast? Try Lean Startups by Eric Ries for ideas on how to fail fast and build something designed to be responsive to the market needs.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Want to see if your organization is ready for change? Read “Reading the Terrain” A field guide to the Corporate Landscape. You can get your free copy by putting your email address in the subscription box at right.

 

A Fun Way to Get “Unstuck”

Team in a funk? Feel like you’re hitting a brick wall? There’s an app for that.

The “Unstuck” app, available on the ITunes store is a great, fun tool that allows you to put in a problem, business or personal, answer a few questions about feelings, who’s involved, what you perceive the roadblocks to be, and it shoots out a diagnosis of what’s going on, possible next steps, and some famous folks who have faced similar situations.  It’s been around for about two years and is constantly improved. Try it.

The app is for Ipads and is free. You can read more about it at www.unstuck.com

Lean Startups and Intrapreneurship: Brussels 2014

Join us in Brussels!

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Applying the Lean Startup Model in Government and Corporations

Learn about navigating the unique challenges and opportunities when creating Lean Startups in Corporate and Government Environments:

Lean Startup for Intrapreneurs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

18:30 Kickoff

19:00 – 21:00 Presentations and Q&A

Brussels Enterprise Agency (ABE-BAO-BEA) – Free parking!

Avenue du Port 86C, B211- 1000 Brussels, Belgium

Carl Danneels of Plethon and Jeanne Goldie of 52weekturnaround.com will share their expertise on how to navigate the special challenges, responsibilities and politics when working in an existing corporate or government structure. Understand how to apply the Lean model, communicate the vision, measure and valuate results while managing the politics of Intrapreneurship. Please join us for this informative session.

Food will be provided. Admission is Free.

The Speakers:

 

Carl Danneels

Carl DanneelsCarl is manager of Plethon, a company established in 2003, offering Integral project and portfolio management services to customers in different industry sectors.

He is a bridge builder across cultures and management paradigms and a strong supporter of sustainable/agile project management approaches (focusing on self-organisation & emergent order rather than top-down control). He is a board Member of the Agile Consortium Belgium and a former Board Member of PMI Belgium. Update: Carl’s Presentation

Jeanne Goldie

Jeanne GoldieJeanne is a startup and turnaround strategist for businesses, the person hired when a business wants to fix something that’s broken or create something entirely new. For the past fourteen years she has worked in the Financial Services industry leading organizational strategy after doing similar work in the tech, government and non-profit sectors.

Jeanne shares her insights at 52weekturnaround.com, a website that helps teams reevaluate, restructure and rebrand their current trajectory using strategic change management. Gathering the best resources, coaches, and advice the site helps readers see challenges with fresh eyes and deliver real-life solutions.  Update: Jeanne’s presentation.

Need More Information?

Contact Jeanne here

 

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move in your organization? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Rule #2: What you knew on the very first day, is what you need to remember now.

Remember the first day you worked at this company, this department?  Some slight boredom, endless paperwork tempered with the excitement of starting something new.  You had some time on your hands to observe while you waited for HR to send back your docs, or your first client to call. Most likely you observed some stuff that didn’t quite make sense, processes that didn’t seem to be working well; a system that seemed to have a vital hiccup.   And you didn’t raise a red flag because, hey, you were the new guy, maybe you just didn’t get “how things worked.”

A few months later, the “Kool-Aid” has been drunk and you’re part of the team. And you don’t notice those things as much anymore. Or someone gave you some sort of explanation about them that kind of made sense or implied a higher level of thinking had already thought through that problem.

Except, you were right, your beginner’s eyes caught something important.

When I take note of things on the first week of any assignment with a new team, if I look back at the notes a year later, there is clarity of thought that often points to a key weakness of the group, team or setup.  It’s generally not people perceptions, but rather processes, procedures or underlying assumptions of the business model that have a “hole” which, while not fatal, may keep the business from achieving the greatest return on its efforts.

Go back to the beginning. Did you take notes? (If not, make sure you always do going forward.) You may not have been 100% correct in your impressions, but I guarantee, somewhere in those first few days, you saw a glimmer of one of the problems that is dogging your team now.

Start digging there.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need help seeing things with fresh eyes?  Subscribe to our newsfeed and you’ll get our free guide to sizing up an organizational culture (look for the subscription box on this page). You want to see the whole chessboard before you make your first move.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015