Failure is an integral part of life and is often touted as a necessary step to any great success. Take for example, Thomas Edison who famously had 1,000 attempts at developing the light bulb. He never viewed the first 999 tries as failures, simply 999 approaches that did not work.
So, if failure itself is not the problem, how can your organisation acknowledge and learn from failure?
It Happens, Accept It
Accepting failure as a tool can be a mechanism for discovering fresh new ideas and unique perspectives to develop your brand. Don’t think failure, think strategic opportunity. Create an organisational culture that shows a willingness to grow and learn from failure rather than avoiding risk.
Integrate a risk-taking message into company values and internal communications that encourages out-of-the-box thinking. Facilitate open discussions to cultivate a culture of calculated risk, that allows you to measure outcomes, reap benefits and identify problem-solving strategies for the organisation.
Set Clear Expectations
Incorporating the acceptance of failure into your organisation is all well and good but needs to be balanced with the appropriate ownership of mistakes, inattention or deviation from prescribed processes.
Frame the work accurately to ensure your employees are aware of how failure ‘fits’ within operations, how they can act to avoid risks and where failure is accepted as part of innovation, continual learning and problem solving. Have leaders talk about their own failures and invite team input into discussion around how the organisation should operate in terms of good and bad decision-making.
Make it clear that managers will still manage bad performance and employees will still be held accountable for outright negligence, complacency and if the same mistakes keep reoccurring when due process is not followed.
Collaborate with Competition
Can you strategically partner with others to share individual expertise? Are there competitor companies that offer a better product or service? Learn to acknowledge that others may have greater expertise than you. How can you capitalise on your competitors’ strengths? Is it cheaper or more efficient to outsource components of inventory stock?
If partnerships are not available, is it possible to differentiate your product or service in a way that only you can? It’s not always necessary to go head to head with an already established competitor.
Quality over Quantity
Don’t be complacent. Put a high-quality management system in place and implement continuous improvement around every aspect of the business, from raw inventory stock through to production, sales channels and shipping activities.
Don’t sacrifice the quality of a product or service now simply to meet a spike in market demand, as if you do, you are likely to experience problems further on.
Encourage customer feedback. How do your customers feel about the product or service you provide? Develop channels where consumers can provide a response to their experience with your product or service. Use this feedback to help guide future offerings.
When a Failure Occurs
If or when a problem arises, act immediately and be honest with your customers. If there is a fault with your inventory stock, let your customers know you are actively looking for a solution. You are responsible for ensuring your goods or services are fit for purpose.
Extract important lessons from issues that arise and imbed them in the organisation, so they are not forgotten or ignored. Behaviours only change when organisations and individuals choose to learn from an event and do so by adapting their attitudes and actions.
A willingness to grow and learn as an organisation can ultimately set you apart from the competition.