Every business faces a challenge at some point – and no business navigates every single challenge successfully. When failure occurs, denial or frustration are common reactions, but you, your team, and your business will all benefit more from treating mistakes as learning experiences.
Every manager or organizational leader understands the importance of learning. Both individual employees and the organization as a whole can learn both from successes and from failures, strengthening both individual skills and teamwork to ensure the company weathers similar challenges more successfully in the future.
When your organization faces a failure, consider the following questions:
1. What did the team accomplish?
Few, if any, failures occur without some small successes. Focusing on these successes can help your employees understand what they did right, boosting their confidence and encouraging them to tackle larger problems. Some points to discuss when asking what the team accomplished include:
- What did we do well?
- Which processes, procedures, or methods operated correctly, and how did that affect the result?
- How do we use our accomplishments to move forward?
2. What did the team learn?
Before jumping into what to do differently next time, pause and reflect on what the team learned from this particular failure. For instance, did team members discover a particular procedure doesn’t work, or that they need to communicate more effectively?
Here are some questions to guide the transformation of a failure into a lesson:
- Because of this experience, what do we know now that we didn’t know before?
- How could we have gathered that information without facing failure?
- Does what we learned here apply to other situations our team has faced or will face?
3. What can the team do differently?
Once you’ve established what went right, what went wrong, and what the team learned, it’s time to move on to brainstorming solutions that can help the team avoid the same mistake in the future. Making a plan to fix matters or to handle them differently reassures the team that failure is not inevitable, increasing their confidence as they move forward. It also reduces the chance that this mistake will happen again.
Consider the following questions:
- What other options might we have pursued? What would have happened if we had?
- How can we change how we work so that mistakes like this one don’t happen again?
- What parts of this failure were in our control, and which were not?