I know what you’re thinking.

The title of this blog sounds like one of those wishy-washy memes that are shared a gazillion times on social media.

On its own, such a statement won’t (or, at least, shouldn’t) cut it for business leaders. If something is going or has gone wrong, the Sean Bean tea advert approach – “Do it for Yorkshire!” – is likely to be met with a sea of slightly bemused faces.

Now, if someone could tell you what one of those ‘extra steps’ were, that would be different. That would be real gold dust.

Well, we are very generous here at Impellus, so read on…

What is failure?

There could be many definitions of ‘failure’ within business - from a project not being delivered on schedule due to flawed estimates, to the complete collapse of the company.

Fortunately, in business we almost always deal with failures at the lower end of this scale. What can we do, then, to help turn these types of failures into successes?

Learn lessons

I mentioned projects above, and there isn’t a better place to look for advice on failure; a very large percentage of projects fail.

Looking at business through a wide lens, learning lessons is, in my opinion, the most important part of any project or undertaking.

In PRINCE2 (a project management methodology), for instance, lessons are regarded as so important that ‘Learn from experience’ is one of its seven guiding principles.

PRINCE2 Practitioners use the many tools available to them to look for, record (in a lessons log) and act on lessons from the start until the end of a project.

Each lesson could be something that might be useful for a current distressed project, perhaps via a particular corrective action, or indeed any project that may happen in the future.

Leave ego at the door

Unless you have a battle-hardened project team, progress reviews and lessons learned meetings can also take a great deal of bravery - especially when things are going or have gone wrong.

An environment where everyone feels able to suggest constructive improvements without fear of retribution, especially from those higher in the food chain, is unfortunately rare.

But if this environment is not there, a crucial trick is being missed.

As long as there is no blame being attributed and any comments are truly constructive, if any member of the team is averse to being challenged in this way to test their current thinking then they are unlikely to be able to help deliver the meaningful continuous improvements that any business needs to excel.

The gold dust

Believe it or not, though, none of the above tips alone will deliver the gold dust I promised.

Even the most constructive meeting or most extensive lessons log can ultimately prove worthless. It cannot decide what to do next. It cannot generate a lessons report that will make necessary change happen. It’s just information.

Yes, as most of you have probably guessed by now, you and your team are the gold dust. Which sounds like a good title for another meme…


Written by Darren Ward – Management & Leadership Assessor


Impellus is a UK-wide provider of management, leadership and core commercial skills training. See our relevant courses:

Management & Leadership Skills

ILM Courses in Leadership & Management

Commercial & Professional Skills Training