I believe we need to rethink our views about failure. Truly, the only failure is if we fail to learn from each and every project, regardless of the outcome. I once conducted a pilot of a new training program. The design team wanted to determine if the program was ready to go. I viewed the project as successful because I quickly found all the problems and was ready to address them. However, the team was devastated that they could not go back to the company celebrating their new program. This attitude inhibited their ability to look closely at what worked and what did not. I was ready to suggest a number of improvements, but they were not ready to listen. I later gave feedback to the head of the company about this prevailing attitude of “get it right the first time out”; he was aware of it and concerned and said he would like to change it. He never did, and neither the program nor the company exist in the same form today.
A more enlightened view that creates an environment for more consistent, predictable, and sustainable success is to be a learning organization that views every project as a means to improve. The focus is on overall organizational success, not just on individual project performance. People then feel like they are constantly contributing to organizational and personal knowledge. The point is to “get it right the last time”–meaning that experimentation, trial and error, bad ideas, foolishness, fun times, craziness, scrappiness, collaboration, and creativity–all have their space to operate, finally leading to a successful outcome.
Randy Englund, http://www.englundpmc.com