How Falling Short Leads to Catastrophe or Victory

Everyone who reaches high falls short.

There is no progress apart from falling short.

Progress is falling short a little less each time.

Falling short – small failure – is easy to hide from others. It’s easy to ignore and just press forward.

What happens after you fall short leads to catastrophe or victory. Catastrophe lurks for all who ignore small failures and tolerate little inconsistencies.

The main value of exploring small failure is learning.

The truth about developing learning organizations:

Learning leaders make it safe to explore small failure and common to celebrate incremental wins.

Ford lost $8.7 billion the second quarter of 2008. Leaders were hiding their short falls.

CEO Alan Mulally made it safe to learn when he clapped and complimented Mark Fields when Mark acknowledged an issue with the lift gate on the Ford Edge. (Fortune Magazine)

“If people on your team are reluctant to confess ignorance, voice doubts or challenge a boss’s perspective, the whole process of learning is stunted.” Rita McGrath, Columbia Business School.

Acknowledge you’re less than a 10 if you hope for remarkable victory.

Think of something you’re doing. On a scale of one to ten, where are you on the remarkable victory scale in that area? (Just go with your gut.) How do you move closer to ten?

The path to remarkable victory requires you to explore small failures – short falls.

Surfacing short falls:

  1. What can we learn from falling short?
  2. How might we simplify complexity?
  3. How might we clarify ambiguity?
  4. How might we make performance a daily conversation?
  5. How are we celebrating small wins?

Tip: Encourage boat rocking.

“Ask someone else to weigh in with their expertise, even when (or especially when) you think it might challenge your own thinking.” Amy Edmondson and Jeff Polzer, Harvard Business School

How might leaders make it safe to discuss and learn from small failure?