“In NASA, we never punish error. We only punish the concealment of error.” – Al Siepert
There is opportunity in every failure. When we fail we are given a chance to turn negative experiences into new, positive learning lessons. A good project manager will celebrate the lessons learned in the evolution process of a project. Oscar Wilde once said “experience is the name every smart man gives a mistake.” Keep track of your team’s learning and what they learned from their mistakes. While it is not of any value to beat people up or down for their errors, there is no value in repeating an error over and over again. As you celebrate the lessons learned from failures remember not to allow the same mistakes to happen again.
We have all heard of “limiting beliefs,” those fears, uncertainties, doubts and suspicions that form and foment primarily between our ears. One of the biggest FUDS that plague people is the fear of failure, of being wrong, criticized or made fun of. In addition, a perceived loss of credibility and competence often seems to hang around the neck of those who make mistakes. The effective project manager will never punish mistakes amongst team members. If punishment is the rule of the manager, the team will become mediocre. That’s right; the team will be in danger of safe, comfortable, mediocrity. There will be no risks taken, no creative visions and no “what ifs” to be investigated. The phrase “trial and error” is important to remember and even more important for the project manager to encourage and grow within the team.
One of my clients has monthly celebrations of failure where his company’s entire workforce is brought together and failures are shared. The company’s best failures of that month are rewarded. That’s right—rewarded. Here is the catch; employees are rewarded for the best lesson(s) learned. At the end of the year the monthly failure awards are put together and the workforce votes on the “Failure of the Year” – the best lesson learned. The result? People know what not to do, they learn from one another and they don’t waste time worrying about what others will say or think. The real payoff is that employees are more productive, morale is high and the company is extremely successful.
I challenge you to celebrate failure and the lessons learned. You won’t be disappointed.
“I have witnessed boards that continued to waste money on doomed projects because no one was prepared to admit they were failures, take the blame and switch course. Smaller outfits are more willing to admit mistakes and dump bad ideas.” –Luke Johnson