In the words of the late actor Mickey Rooney, “You always pass failure on your way to success.” This quote also applies to personal and professional projects as well as when engaging in creativity and innovation.
In fact, one of the greatest inventors of all, Thomas Edison, stated that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Well, we all know that eventually Edison succeeded in creating the first electric light bulb, but he also developed a telegraph transmitter, the phonograph, and motion picture camera, among other things! The point of it all is that he failed many times before reaching the point of success!
With that in mind Dan Rockwell, a.k.a. the Leadership Freak, has devised a list 20 things that can be done when your project fails:
- Let it sting. Soothing pain is for babies, not big boys and girls. Team members who don’t care about losing are losers. Don’t sooth discomfort by minimizing failure, but don’t overreact, either.
- Expect responsibility. Blamers are covering for something they should have done. Finger-pointing is the loser’s way of getting out of the spotlight.
- Remember what worked and why.
- Celebrate wins. One failure isn’t reason to stop celebrating all successes. Don’t give failure so much power that it turns out the lights.
- Make it personal. Ask, “How did we let each other down?”
- Step up to excellence not down to mediocrity. Excuses are the path to ease, insignificance, and irrelevance. “How can we be better?”
- Pick the scab. Dig into issues optimistically and respectfully. The goal is improving next time, not blaming and putting down.
- Don’t assume you know the reasons for failure.
- Evaluate the project. Was the project worth doing in the first place? Improve individual performance, but, don’t improve what isn’t worth repeating.
10. Separate planning from execution during evaluation.
11. Seek feedback from constituents outside the team.
12. Explore lessons learned. What can be improved and how?
13. Avoid globalizing. One failure doesn’t mean everything is going to fail.
14. Don’t identify failure with who you are.
15. Believe improvement is possible.
16. Don’t assume working harder will make things better. What will you do differently, next time?
17. Was the duration of the project too long? Short timelines are best.
18. Explain how you’ll do better next time. Be specific. Clarity is the mother of success.
19. Put it to bed.
20. Re-vitalize momentum. Examine what happened with what’s next in mind. Create a win and celebrate.
Stay encouraged! In time, your failures will lead you to success!
– The IDEAWorks® Team
“It’s not a disgrace to fail. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world”
~Charles F. Kettering