Failing Fast, Failing to Last
If experience doesn't teach you anything, how do you grow?
The epic nature of failure.
I love epic fails. We all do. I mean the ones where no one gets hurt. Well, maybe an ego gets bruised, or someone stops taking themselves seriously.
We have all been there, where a situation comes out of the blue and you get caught with your pants down, so to speak (it's an idiom - like the expression “deer caught in the headlights).
Can you remember your last situation like that? No, of course, you're perfect 😁.
My first notable professional Epic Fail happened while I was in a highly-paid consulting role in Australia.
The type of role where you had to look sharp, act sharp and deliver the goods.
Sharp Dressed Fail
Contracted to deliver a new operating model for the property valuation function across an Asia Pacific banking institution (very sexy, I know), I was out to make an impression.
Part of the focus was to analyse the demand of the function over a historic two-year period and then generate a capacity model to suggest how to resource the new operating model (also very sexy, I know)
Data has been reluctantly shared with me over the week by bank officials who disliked me seeing their data reality.
It was time to turn in the goods to the executive sponsor, a lovely, quiet, analytical and sharp guy.
The model was shared with three slides highlighting the
High-level data findings and link to the data (an Excel sheet- Google Sheets didn’t exist back then)
The work day was finished, and off down Sydney CBD (business district), I trotted listening to loud dance music in the blazing sunshine.
Two-thirds of the way to the ferry terminal, I suddenly realised I had f&€led up. I hadn’t linked the Excel to the presentation. The findings were missing critical data I had received that day.
Fear entered my body as I didn’t think I’d ever messed up like that before or with a senior leader in a company.
Sense prevailed, and I plucked up the courage to phone the executive.
Fear had turned to adrenaline, and I stopped my music (pretty sure I was listening to a dance remix of N.E.R.D).
“Hey Tim, really sorry I messed up. The data I sent you a minute ago wasn’t connected, and I wanted to inform you to ensure you didn’t make any decisions using it when it could cause bias and incorrect conclusions”.
Silence hung as Tim processed.
He then shared his response.
“We’re one step away from this being a success. Send the updated one on Monday”.
The fear was gone, and I was delighted to know Tim saw the positives and treated my error in such a great way.
The following week, we used the correct analysis to inform the focus and make fundamental changes that vastly improved the operating model.
Resources are happier, and customer valuation wait time is reduced from 19 days to an average of 7 days across the different territories.
Looking for Personal Failure Themes
Formula for Failure
Work Tenure / Work History x Experience = Fail Factor 7
If work tenure gifts your work history,
Then work history gifts you experience,
With Experience, you get personal data points that can be plotted over time to be learned from.
Looking over my early career roles, I remember seeing patterns in my work ethic.
I was eager to be first, quickest and responsive to work delivery.
This sometimes led to the detriment of my work output.
When you move at the speed of light, it's more likely that particles will slow you down.
Sometimes, you must stop. Check what you are doing.
There is actually a measure people use called “First Time Right”.
FTR = (number of usable products divided by the total number of products) x 100
FTR = (number of correctly delivered work items divided by the total number of work items delivered) x 100
Suppose you manage to deliver work tasks and never ever make errors. Well done to you! You’re impressive.
Everyone else, take an extra few minutes to double-check your work and make sure it’s error-free.
What have your experiences with your failures taught you?
We would all love to learn from them.
Could you pop a comment below or DM me?
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