RCA Part 2: Build the stamina to fail
“Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success” [James Dyson]
Elevating negative information is the message of this article - realising that mistakes or failures are an integral part of a company’s development, equal in measure to its successes.
The Dyson story springs to mind – James Dyson went through the highs and lows of 5126 failed attempts at a bagless vacuum cleaner until, five years and huge debts later, he hit upon version 5127 – the first working prototype. With a Sunday Times Rich List valuation of £23billion, his failed attempts clearly weren’t in vain.
Organisations that successfully develop a culture in which positive and negative information are treated as equals are better placed to make fully informed decisions. They will better understand the potential effectiveness of solutions, the relative ease of their implementation, the likely returns on investment and, crucially, the potential risk of any changes.
Great organisations build the stamina to fail and they ensure important decision-making is evidence-based and data-driven.
“Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!” We have all heard this phrase and we may even have uttered it ourselves. But successful teams know that great solutions come from a full understanding of any problem – and that requires an acceptance, exploration and understanding of failure.
Why is this important? Just imagine life in an organisation that makes most of its decisions on gut-feeling or opinion and not on information and evidence. Or worse still, one that uses its previous failures as a threat, instead of embracing the data for learning purposes. Such an organisation would, in all likelihood, not last long and certainly would not reach its full potential. Of course, few organisations set out to make decisions in this way. But many will drift towards the kind of informal procedures and cultures that discourage the identification of mistakes and the active sharing of failure data.
Of course, this is not easy to cultivate and cannot be achieved quickly. Great organisations work hard to encourage their employees to share information, just as any good scientist would. Cutting-edge organisations are more open with their failures and they implement processes that close the gap between what happened and what should have happened. Alongside this, they develop and support an environment that maximises any opportunity to learn from negative events.
Does your organisation have an objective approach to information?
What can your organisation do to improve its stamina to fail?
All individuals and organisations make mistakes. Fear of sharing the information and lessons learned will only increase the frequency and scale of future errors.