Posts Tagged ‘failure’

swing1I give up. I don’t give up. I give up. I don’t give up. I give up.

I’m an optimist. I always think there is a way forward, a way to progress. I can’t even admit to myself that there is a limit to this position.

But yet. That ever possible and frustrating but yet. But yet there are times when forces overwhelm your position and you must retreat. Those things just too far outside of your control.

Let me wander for a moment. I know things must evolve. I know evolution of an organization or even a person does not go from point A directly to point Z. It’s a journey.

I have recently been faced with interacting with an organization so unevolved that I don’t know or can’t comprehend what point A is. It’s like pre-history to me. The evolutionary divide is so great that I can’t even speak the same language. And what language I attempt to use that seems to be recognized gets translated into terms from this pre-history and entirely misses the point.

So guess what? And this is difficult to admit. I quit trying. I came to grips with what could simplistically be called failure.

I know I have been told that this happens and others have even shared similar stories with me. It is highly unpleasant feeling. I don’t like it. Remember the optimist part of me. I believe there is hope. But yet.

But yet the return on investment here is awful. The drain of energy for little return can’t go on.

In counseling circles they say it’s almost impossible to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Barkis has to be willing.

Yes, this is all a “learning” process. But we tend to talk so much in these blogs about how awesome we are and that we have all the right tools and methods and attitudes. We don’t talk about how much this flailing sucks. And it does suck. I suppose this post is a way of working through that suckage and moving on.

So be wise enough to give up. Move on to the next place that is willing to multiply your energy instead of divide it.

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RedAlert1Failure. It will happen. You don’t know when and you don’t know where. But it will happen.

It’ll be annoying and it’ll come at the worst possible moment. It’ll be unwelcome and it’ll be unexpected.

That’s OK. It happens to everyone. It needs to happen. It means you are pushing boundaries. Looking to make real change. It’s these failures and adversities that test and develop your leadership skills. It’s not whether you fail.  It’s how you react when you do. In this care it is not only about how you react but how the whole team reacts.

I’m not going to talk about how to avoid failures and do a better job. Initiatives can fail for so many reasons. Most of my posts talk about how to do it right. This is about how to succeed at failing.

It’s like being a boy scout. Be prepared.

Deal with the psychology. Prep the team. Make sure to let them know that sometimes things fail. I know it can be tricky to talk about failure with a new team that is already skeptical. The downside of not taking about it is when you fail and the skeptics get to say, “Ha, I told you so.” You need to talk about it. It just doesn’t have to be the first thing out of your mouth. Sometime after you have covered the basic concepts and goals and tactics is a good time. Instill confidence, then instill reality.

Communicate the reaction plan. Some variation of PDCA (Plan Do Check Adjust).  Avoid the message that this is our Code Red Disaster Plan. Convey the message that this is our process regardless of the degree of success or the degree of failure. If necessary, you can emphasize the Adjust part.  Progress is a continuum of adjustments, not an end point. Adjusting to failure is a part of normal operating procedure.

Focus on the education. Reacting to failure is a learning process. This is how we learn. This is how we get better. Let them know that you’ll find the right tool to react to the situation at the time. Since we don’t know how it might fail, we don’t know what tool we’ll use. That’s OK. We’ll find the right tool then. If we don’t understand the tool, we’ll figure it out. One more learning experience.

You could get clichéd and say failures are opportunities. I wouldn’t, but you could.

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As a change agent, I should be told to fail. In fact anyone doing improvement work should be told to fail. Well, not exactly told to fail. I should be told that I should be pushing the envelope far enough to fail regularly.

If I am always succeeding, then I am not risking enough. Real innovation requires risks. We hear this all the time from the innovation gurus. Real change requires real risk.

Yet we don’t tolerate failure very well, do we? In fact how often are projects scaled back to avoid failure? And how often are the things that get scaled out of the project the most aggressive and most innovative pieces? It’s because perception of success (or rather completion of a project) is more important than real change, real progress.

How do we get out of this mentality? How do we break free?

Perhaps we need to begin by acknowledging that change and risk are linked closely together. And since people perceive change as risk no matter what, you may as well build in enough risk to make real change. Otherwise you are just introducing stress with little chance of impactful change.

So leaders need to embrace failure as a positive possibility. And then need to let their people know this. Of course this means knowing the difference between failure caused by risk taking and failure caused by incompetence. You improve your chances of knowing the difference when you understand the vision and the processes being executed.

I know that’s asking a lot. But you can start small. Be aggressive on small projects where the cost of failure is manageable. Learn to fail well. It’s like learning to lose well.  And remember that you can often learn far more in losing than in winning.

Think of it as research and development instead of success and failure. In development you expect that you will develop things that don’t work. You tweak your way to a good result.

This isn’t some new concept. It’s the concept of being OK with failures that is missing. It’s a mentality and an attitude, not a process, that needs your love.