It Can Be Fine to Fail

We are involved with an initiative at work that is running dangerously close to missing its deadline. It’s a national initiative that aims to take a stance on an equity issue, and the marketing behind the initiative put the deadline for a time once long in the future that is now rapidly approaching. Folks in industry have individually worked to support the initiative’s aims, but it’s a big, hairy, unwieldy problem that will take everyone to solve.

The specifics of this initiative isn’t important for the purposes of this blog post. What is important is that there is a ticking clock that is creating a sense of urgency to act. To be completely honest, if we fail to reach our target, it won’t be the end of the world; it’s not an outcome that has immediate returns, but instead is about shifting culture and making things better for people in the long term. However, failure to reach the target will come with a certain amount of embarrassment and potential loss of good will.

I had a conversation with a colleague to discuss the initiative and the proposed action plan that’s up for consideration. A lot of work has gone into the current iteration, but some folks feel it is missing the mark in ways that can’t be ignored. The plan is being pushed forward so that work can begin and the worry is by not taking time to appropriately address the issues with the plan, we run the risk of either achieving nothing meaningful or we will cause real harm. By treating the problem as a pipeline issue, you focus your efforts too narrowly, where an “ecosystem” approach of seeing the problem as a multi-faceted set of interconnected issues that require careful consideration will require a lot more work.

It would be useful for us to understand what the cost of failure will be. The consideration must be that it’s better to fail to meet the deadline (and have a little egg on your face) than to push forward for implementation and potentially cause harm. We are dealing with people, and people will feel the deadline urgency mix with the sunk cost fallacy. If we push forward, we’ll want to ensure we do so deliberately and take responsibility for the outcomes.

Stay Awesome,


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