A Strategy for Failing

January 27, 2011


I know what you’re thinking. Using the word strategic and failing together make little sense. The notion of defining strategy would almost certainly be aligned to elements of success and certainly not failure.

“Unless You Are Willing To Fail You really Can’t Succeed”

Said another way unless you are willing to try things that might fail you can’t achieve the levels of success associated with being in a leading-edge position. Underneath this premise are some things that if taken into account, managed to and made part of the fabric of the business will maximize the impact of failing and minimize its downside. Here are 3 considerations

Intelligent Failures - Calculated risks in trying new ideas is a critical part of strategic failures. If we learn to accept that things tried are not always successful than we can learn to approach initiatives with an accepted option of failure and impact. Working this through is in essence preparation and acceptance of intelligent failures. We can also learn a lot from things that don’t go well. This learning is part of intelligent failures and should be used to define the next attempt. As an example entering a new market geography or positioning a new product or service will most certainly have aspects that will fail. We might assume a certain market penetration or share and find out that we have come up short. Anticipating this and identifying responses in advance is an aspect of Intelligent failures. Studying the patterns leading up to the failure will help best define without emotion and blame what went wrong and more importantly what is required to get it right.

Faster Failures - 2 key points here. Moving a process through to the point of understanding success or failure in a way that retains the integrity of what is being done yet can get to the point of failure (or success) quickly is important to allow changes or a decision to stop the work completely. This is OK and once accepted in the organization will drive faster execution and decisions for the things that succeed. The other point is when something is failing starting the process to understand and analyze quickly will most certainly drive a faster company, one that innovates and reacts quickly.

Recover Quickly – If the business and the people understand and accept that failing is OK than you can recover quickly. A lot of times slow recoveries from failures are tied to blaming others and not accepting that something failed. If it’s personal than it will take longer to recover. Recovering quickly allows the business to move on and adjust faster.

A number of years ago Michael Jordon made a commercial for NIke that focused on his failures and suggested he became the dominant player he was because of it. Check it out.

Lets accept failures for what they are.

About Frank Picarello

Frank is a well-respected leader in providing technology services to small and medium-sized businesses. He is currently COO for TeamLogic IT, Chairperson for CompTIA's Small Business Owner's Group, and a member of CompTIA's Unified Communication Committee.

View all posts by Frank Picarello

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