Welcome to the penultimate guiding principle from Brightline Initiative’s guiding principles to bridge the gap between strategy design and delivery. This is Principle 9.

In the previous post, I covered principle 8. Its core essence was to ensure leaders have all the information for the current portfolio status before they commit to any new initiatives. It is basically a self (business) awareness assessment before taking new steps. In principle 9, the star element is ‘mistakes’.

Principle 9 – Develop Robust Plans but Allow for Missteps – Fail Fast Learn Fast

The tip is in the name: fail fast and learn fast. I really enjoyed going through this principle because it is a topic I always cover with professionals I work with, and have certainly covered throughout my mentoring relationships. And this is down to one main question:

Do you expect your project plan to be perfect?

If the answer is yes, or if you believe experience will help you get there, I am sorry to break it to you: you are in for a very rough ride. In project management 101, there are 10 knowledge areas one of which is Risk Management. The foundation of this knowledge area is that project professionals must be prepared for risks and opportunities that might impact the course of the project (scope, schedule, budget). It is responding to ‘what-if’ scenarios and making sure you have the correct change path ready should any of these scenarios materialise. Risk management also talks about planning for the unexpected incidents. So if you take this foundational knowledge, you should not expect a perfect plan – be it project, portfolio or a business plan. We know that PESTLE (political, environmental, social, technological, legal, economic) changes can be unpredictable and have a huge impact on the status quo.

This principle explains the culture of startups vs the culture of old fashioned heavily bureaucratic businesses. Understanding the difference brings light to this principle. Because start ups are lean, they operate in a model of trying many things hoping for the best business model to stick. Hence failing fast and learning fast. It brings the question: how do you as a leader respond to mistakes that your team make?

This module brings examples from Netflix, Pixar Animation and Xiaomi companies.

I have an idea. I know why it is bad. I pivoted to something else.

Mark Randolph Co-Founder of Netflix – Brightline Initiative Principle 9 Module

I have worked in opposing environments throughout my career. I have worked in an environment where mistakes are frowned upon; and I have also worked in a place where mistakes are treated like a mini coaching session. Of course leaders who deploy the latter approach are the ones who are memorable and have taught me a lot. Because ultimately leaders are coaches, creating a safe space to say: ok, what went wrong? Why do you think this happened? Knowing the goal you want to achieve, what would you differently? and then when ready, go on to say: great, why don’t you go and try this new approach. In principle 7, the importance of psychological safety for teams is explored. These are very much linked.

What is one mistake you have done and have learned a valuable lesson from?

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