Organizations get stuck because the individuals who make up the organization get stuck. In an ever-changing world, an organization cannot survive if it is unwilling to change. Success requires the people in the organization to take healthy risks by generating and implementing new ideas that will make the organization better. Of course, some ideas will succeed, and some ideas will fail.
How an organization or individual processes failure is crucial to agility and innovation.
An organization that is quick to punish failure is communicating it is not okay to take healthy risk. The result is people will stop taking initiative. They will wait to be told what to do and how to do it, because that is the safe path. This is the definition of disengagement and is the consequence of a fear-based culture. Likewise, when an individual views failure as something that must be avoided at all cost, that person is likely to avoid taking initiative and making decisions that involve risk of failure.
This quote by Brené Brown succinctly summarizes the challenge. "There is no innovation and creativity without failure." ALL innovation comes with risk of failure. So, the question is not, “How do I avoid failure?” It should be “How will I respond when I fail?” Processing failure in a healthy manner—in a way that nurtures initiative and continuous learning—is essential. 100% Responsibility is the key ingredient.
A healthy culture is one where people are slow to blame others and quick to take 100% Responsibility to understand and work the problem at hand.
Learning Through Failure Model
Great organizations and agile teams—ones that produce long-term, sustainable results—are characterized by continuous learning and move through the following cycle very quickly:
1) Own it—Take 100% Responsibility for your part in contributing to the failure.
What did I do to contribute to the problem?
What did I not do that might have prevented the problem?
2) Fix it—Take 100% Responsibility for the solution and what you are going to do about it.
What can I do to fix this problem?
What can I do to empower others to solve this problem?
Make amends and apologize immediately to anyone hurt by my action/inaction, if appropriate.
3) Learn from It—Take 100% Responsibility for learning from the experience and how you apply the learning moving forward.
What did I learn about myself from this situation?
What did I learn about my team and my organization?
What will I do to prevent this problem in the future?
Forgive yourself, apply what you have learned, and move on.