Accept and Encourage Mistakes

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“Things will not work, a and systems will break down. You will fail and make mistakes. It will be messy. Even for experienced change agents…”

Xerox was formed when Kodak rejected its idea for a new kind of copier. Apple was founded when Xerox rejected Steve Jobs’s idea for a new personal computer. John Travolta could have been Forrest Gump; Tom Selleck passed on being Indiana Jones; Gwenyth Paltrow told James Cameron that Titanic was not her “cup of tea.”

Change agents know they can always lose, but, win or lose, mistakes will be made. We’re gonna screw up! No matter how prepared you are and how good your team is, a lot of bad (and good) luck will be undeserved. Learn to get over it now. Mistakes are inevitable. Of course you should try to minimize them. But just as you must realistically evaluate your business given current market conditions and the need and possibilities for change, you must be realistic and accept that mistakes will happen

2 Types of Mistakes:

Yes, I said un-encouraged. I believe that if you have the right people in the right positions, mistakes will mostly be of two types:

  1. Inescapable errors. Acknowledge and correct them to create awareness and team play. They are useful early in the change process in finding out whether you have a team that is responsible and accountable and capable of driving the change you need. Can you get ahead with the team you have? What are its weaknesses?
  2. Missteps that come from thinking big and trying to grow bigger. Acknowledge and encourage them; they indicate a willingness to go for opportunities and not play it safe, refusing to resign oneself to mediocrity. Who wants bland? Go for it! Do you need more people or skilled technicians to help you do this?

Mistakes are inevitable, and it’s our job as change agents to cause tension, which will occasionally piss people off.  But the worst thing is that you see something and don’t bring it up—you become seduced by the process and become part of the problem by failing to change it.



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