If we learn lessons, mistakes can help us

Image highlighting that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are ok, they are part of learning

Learning from mistakes is good.  Learning from someone else’s mistakes is better.  Learning from what went right is better still.

We have all done things that didn’t go so well – sometimes we fail spectacularly. We tend to remember those moments. The embarrassment and sense of failure fades with time but we retain a lesson from the moment and gradually become wiser.

Mistakes I have made include:

  • Planning work before engaging stakeholders fully
  • Not recognising signs of stress in a team early enough
  • Failing to insist that a client backfill key roles in a project so the day job still gets done
  • Assuming people will act on information I communicated once
  • Not ending a piece of work earlier

I have been around long enough to have made lots of mistakes, usually different ones. The good thing about those mistakes is that when I start something new I usually know what to do and what not to do.  That knowledge helps me save our clients time and money.  It helps avoid upsetting customers and staff. We also do a lessons learned review at the start of all new client projects.  It helps everyone learn from their mistakes and successes and those of others too.

That is why it is surprising how many executives and business owners kick off big initiatives or projects without stopping to ask and consider the responses to three key questions:

  1. What went right and what went wrong when we tried our last few initiatives?
  2. What went right and what went wrong when other people tried to do something like this?
  3. How can we apply those lessons to what we are about to do?

Asking these questions helps us avoid pointless activity, helps us do things in the right sequence, helps us get value for money, helps make our work more satisfying and creates more value.

Strategic investments carry risk. One of the easiest ways to reduce that risk is to identify the scenarios that might need to be managed upfront so we can be ready for them. Thinking before strategy implementation is critical to success. It doesn’t take long to do and the savings can be huge. You are always free to make your own mistakes but why do so when you can learn lessons from the mistakes of others?

Sometimes it helps to have someone independent research and facilitate a kick-off lessons review.  We can do that as part of our One Week Delivery service where we provide a critical piece of consulting work within one week (or your preferred timeframe) for a fixed fee. If that sounds like something that would help you please get in touch.

Phil Guerin, Consultant/Director, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2024