Five Steps To Help Your Team Learn From A Failure
Nobody likes to fail.
However, when you’re a manager leading a team that aims to excel and innovate, it’s an inevitable part of the job. In fact, in a Harvard Business Review article titled “Increase Your Return on Failure,” Julian Birkshaw and Martine Haas cited a survey that showed that 31 percent of professionals believed a risk-averse culture was a major obstacle to innovation.
It’s only logical that when you’re developing an innovative product or service, you also have to establish a new process to create that product or service. Since there isn’t an existing formula you can refer to, it’s a process of trial—and error. Nevertheless, when your team has worked for months on a project that for some reason didn’t yield the desired results, it can quickly demoralize your employees and even create friction within the group. And at that point, it’s up to you to bring everyone back onto the same page and encourage them to analyze what went awry in order to learn from it and move forward. The following five steps will help your team learn from failure:
1. Don’t allow your employees to take or assign the blame. Blaming isn’t constructive, since it doesn’t change the negative results, plus, it divides the group. Inform your employees that there won’t be any mention of blame and instead, you’ll all focus on turning the failure into a collective learning opportunity.
2. Review and analyze every step of the project to pinpoint the problem or problems. Together with your team, go over every step of the project. Study and discuss each phase until you know precisely what went wrong and where. Bear in mind that there could be more than one error or wrong choice.
3. Brainstorm alternative, effective methods or processes. For each step that contributed to the failure of the project, ask your team to suggest solutions that would accomplish the desired results. When someone proposes a different course of action, get the entire team to follow it through in a hypothetical situation to determine if it would really work.
4. Determine what was done well. It’s also key to take note of what phases and elements were done well. Discuss what factors or conditions played a role. Additionally, it’s advisable to encourage your team to brainstorm ways to make these elements more effective or efficient, since there’s often room for improvement.
5. Establish collective accountability. While professionals with different job functions should be able to rely on their colleagues’ ability to do their job well, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone can make mistakes. Yet mistakes only become a problem when they aren’t corrected. Explain to your employees that since they all rely on one another to successfully complete a project, they should also be open to checking in with each other to see if everyone’s on schedule and if anyone needs any assistance. If someone feels like a colleague is lagging behind, needs some assistance, or requires additional guidance, then it’s okay to speak up because ultimately, voicing that concern can contribute to the team’s success—and by extension, to that of the entire company.
Failures are without a doubt not the most pleasant moments of your career. However, by keeping a positive attitude and helping your team learn from their mistakes, you can turn a disappointment into a highly effective learning opportunity—and in the long run, even drive innovation.
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