Craig Brown asked me an interesting question today:
How may of all the people you have ever interviewed for project management positions have ever admitted openly to have run a failed project?
Interesting question, and the answer, quite clearly, is zero.
Failure is not something most of us will feel overly proud with. I am yet to see a LinkedIn profile outlining one’s failures. We are conditioned to hide, or at least obscure, our failures. Clearly we are not overtly proud about them.
Having been pondering this point I have come across an article by Charlene Li in HarvardBusiness.org, titled “The Art of Admitting Failure” where she discusses the advantages of embracing failure as a stepping stone for success. Charlene suggests that “rather than expend enormous energy to avoid it, leaders should build an organization that is resilient in the face of inevitable failures“, and to achieve this she recommends adopting the following three steps:
1. Creating a culture of sharing failures as well as success;
2. Rewarding the act of risk-taking; and
3. Defining the limits and determining rules of engagement.
I love it but would like to make a small, yet crucial, amendment to the list. The missing link here is the step of making the ‘Commander’s intent” clear to all levels of decision makers, such that when they take risks (within their limits and rules of engagement) they do so with full appreciation of what the objectives are.
Think about it!