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Failure is not an option!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

A man walks into a bar and says “Failure is not an option!”. From that point on nobody in the bar does anything because life involves risk and risk implies the possibility of failure.

Ok, so it’s not a funny story or even a joke… Organisations the world over are strangled by an inability or an unwillingness to balance risk for benefit. When something goes wrong, fingers are pointed, blame is apportioned and the individuals involved castigated to ensure that they do not do this again (best case).

This behaviour builds an intrinsic aversion to risk taking in the individuals and hence decision making is either shirked or avoided (fence sitting) as much as possible.

Much of the process overhead of (knowledge based) organisations is as a result of this aversion. We build massive edifices of process to ensure that we’re not left “holding the bag” when something goes wrong. Always get “sign off” by someone higher up the chain that way your ass is covered.

Seriously: This is the 21st century. That old world process centric management ethos should be dead and buried (very deep) by now. Stop playing lip service to the concept that “we don’t have a blame culture” and actually change your culture to one which not only doesn’t apportion blame but which understands that risk involves the chance of failure and that failure is just another way to learn.

In my mind, the most important leadership trait of all is Bravery. A Brave leader intrinsically understands that the only failure which counts is the failure to understand risk and act appropriately (and decisively) – everything else is optional.