Learning from the deep ocean of failure

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Well it’s Friday! Thank God! I get to go home to my family today!

Let’s talk about and share our failures. Not all of them, we don’t have that much time. BUT, everybody’s doing it! The ocean of failure is deep. I do more than my share to keep in full.

Yeah, I know some people never fail and will never admit it when they do. They will also likely not improve at a fast enough rate to stay competitive. My wife has helped me see this in myself over the past fifteen years. She is an amazing partner and mother to my four kids.

I’ll go first of course. The key here is to learn and improve. You don’t need to get personal, just enough to learn. And remember, praise in public, and critique in private. Let’s practice…

Recently I missed an important meeting because I didn’t pay enough attention to the time zone change (during my near constant travels). I feel horrible about it. It was an epic failure too. I was at the Verizon store transferring my phone service (crap — another story). I was distracted and thought I had two hours till the meeting. I completely bombed and forgot about the time change and dissed my VIP attendee.

Since then, I have improved and organized my various accounts and calendars to avoid this in the future. I also apologized profusely to my victim and offered repentance.

See that wasn’t so hard. I was lying. That was really, really hard. But we must learn in a world that shuns constructive feedback.

Now, how do you approach building this valuable pattern of openness, improvement, and empathy into and entire organization? Professional sports teams do it. Why are many enterprises stuck in perfection and failure is damaging to a career?

It all starts with individuals and interactions. At the tip of the spear we can begin to shape and build new behaviors. These new behaviors can be replicated in your team. Your team of teams (ART!), your division, group, and organization.

Start with a 1:1 working agreement with one of your coworkers to provide each other with completely transparent (a SAFe core value) feedback in the form of constructive criticism on a regular cadence. Choose someone that you interact with regularly. Agree to be respectful and honest. Create improvement items. Agree to keep your interactions completely discrete.

Grow from there to sharing your experience and growth with others on your team or organization. From there you can influence others to learn how to take criticism and feedback in a positive way.

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