Friday, November 4, 2011

Lean Quote: Success Always Starts With Failure

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Success comes through rapidly fixing our mistakes rather than getting things right first time." — Tim Harford, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure

Success always starts with the knowledge of what failure would be, because if you haven't defined what failure is, you haven't defined what it isn't, i.e. success.

Ultimately though, we most often learn through trial and error. We reserve the word success for the accomplishment of difficult things and there are few difficult things you get right on the first try.

Hence while success does not ALWAYS start with failure, it would be fair to say it does most of the time. If you aren't failing, you're not trying, and if you aren't trying you aren't succeeding.

Treat every mistake as an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t feel stupid or doomed forever just because you failed at something. You can find always other opportunities. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not improving. Henry Ford said, “Failure is merely an opportunity to begin again knowledgeably.” Failure can be an inevitable stepping-stone to great achievement.

Management needs to establish an environment where failure is acceptable. Failures can either destroy or advance our goals, but it's our response to them that truly determines the outcome. If we are too afraid of failure to try then we will never know if we can improve our situation.

Nobody likes to make mistakes. However, the simple reality of life is that at some point, all of us are going to be wrong. That’s just life. We are going to make mistakes. A colleague of mine always says, “Learn to fail quickly.” Essentially, if you are going to fail you need to learn to do it quickly in order to get the data (results) that you can use to gradually improve. The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can find a solution that truly adds value.

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