In Inc., Justin Bariso describes three lessons from Google’s process for “learning from failure.” They call the process the post mortem. There is no doubt that we, and the leaders that we serve, will make mistakes. As change practitioners, learning these lessons from Google can serve us well. And, if we can successfully bring them to the leaders that we serve, even better!
- “Identify the most important problems.” Not every mistake requires a post mortem. Define the criteria for when it is important to conduct them, and stick to it. Your criteria may not be complete, especially early on. If there is a big mistake that doesn’t fit the criteria, change the criteria so that the post mortem is conducted.
- “Create a record.” When a post mortem is warranted, it is important to bring the team together, and to take the time needed to do it correctly. Bariso recommends 30-60 minutes. Among the questions answered are, “What happened, why, its impact, how the issue was mitigated or resolved, what we’ll do to prevent the incident from recurring, what went well, what didn’t go well, where did we get lucky, and what can we do differently next time?”
- “Promote growth, not blame.” By moving the focus away from blame, you open the door to greater candor, insight, and learning.
Google offers a post mortem template.
As simple as it sounds, in many organizations, successfully implementing a process such as this can be undermined by fear of repercussions when (not if) things go wrong. Creating that culture of learning, not blaming, is the most challenging part of the process.
Brian Gorman is the Managing Editor of Change Management Review™. In this capacity he regularly curates articles of importance to our readership; contributes original writing; hosts podcasts; and works with guest authors.
For more than five decades Brian has been engaged in—and a student of—change at the personal, organizational, and societal levels. During this time, he has worked with both individuals and organizations (ranging from solo practitioners to Fortune 100 businesses), guiding them through a wide array of challenges. Decades of experience have given him a deep appreciation of the universal patterns that underlie successfully navigating even the most difficult changes.
In addition to his work as our Managing Editor, Brian is a transformation coach, supporting both individual and organizational change. Brian is committed to passing his “lessons learned” on to others, so that their change journeys can advance more smoothly. He is a frequent workshop facilitator and public speaker. Brian is the author of “The Hero and the Sherpa,” a chapter in the online Handbook of Personal and Organizational Transformation (Springer Publishing; Judi Neal, Editor). He also has an extensive library of blog posts, articles, and videos on the change journey, including “The Ten Most Important Lessons I Have Learned Over 50 Years of Engaging Change.”
Mr. Gorman’s formal education includes a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Syracuse University, an MA in Higher Education Administration from the University of Texas, San Antonio and an MA in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.
Brian is an International Coach Federation (ICF) certified coach, and is an active member in the New York City chapter. Brian is also a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and the Gay Coaches Alliance.
Failure can be one of the most difficult things to deal with in life, but it is also an incredibly important teacher. So, what does failure teach us? Learning from our failures is one of the best ways to improve our lives and become more successful. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world are those who have failed the most times. When entrepreneurs fail, they tend to make a stronger come back!