Making mistakes is a normal part of life. Equally, mistakes are a normal part of business. Mistakes, however, shouldn’t be perceived as somehow a failure or a sign of incompetence – they should instead be met as an opportunity to learn and grow; to strengthen your team and tighten your processes. Clearly what I’m saying isn’t any new wisdom, as mistakes are as old as dirt and great thinkers over the millennia have been preaching about how to spin them to the positive. Dozens of old expressions like “Fail-fast-forward”, “Corrective Action”, and “Lessons Learned”, point to a common theme about the constructive management of when things go wrong.
A key corporate value that separates a well-run business from a not-so-well-run business is in how they handle mistakes, errors and failures. An important business mantra to live by is that, “They’re only mistakes if you keep making them”. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is not just a sign of insanity, but a sign of a business improvement opportunity. For example, a company that is consistently under-performing on their projects, or not achieving profitability targets on their projects – and does little to correct that but hope for better results next time – is obviously not learning from their mistakes. Hope, as they say, is not a strategy. What is a strategy, is to examine and rethink processes and systems and apply corrective action towards eliminating chronic mistakes.
It’s very common for organizations to outgrow their existing systems and processes as they take on more and bigger projects. Growing the business without keeping up with the back-end project management infrastructure most often leads to mistakes and defining events that trigger the need to change. Often the events that precede the decision to upgrade systems are the kind of events that are jam-packed with preventable mistakes. Again, they’re only mistakes if you keep making them.