Converting Failure Into Success

Worried about failing? That’s normal since we tend to view failure in a negative light. However, consider this statement: “I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” You can derive success from failure, but first you have to learn the lessons, and failure’s a pretty good teacher. By the way, the “student” who made that statement was none other than Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to ever step on the court.


If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we delved into the topic of success and failure at the start of the year. (See “Failing to Succeed” in our archive.) In addition to Jordan, there are plenty of success stories throughout history that are littered with failures along the way. So what’s the key to converting failure into success? You have to learn from your failures first, so let’s take a look now at running a “post-mortem” on failures.


The adage “hindsight is 20/20” is dead accurate, and while that statement is often uttered with remorse, you should embrace the clarity of the failure. Knowing what went wrong and why helps you convert failure into success. If you aren’t sure why things went wrong, figuring that out is step one. Speculating about how to avoid repeating a failure is a waste of time… if you don’t know the cause in the first place. There are times when the only way to arrive at that answer is, in fact, trial and error, which can be a long tedious process.


Hopefully, you can unravel the failure using the 5-Why method, continuing to follow the problem upstream until you reach its source. (For a 5-Why refresher, see “Why, Oh Why – The Importance of 5-Why" in our archive.) With the answer, you can now review the processes in place from the start of the problem through the rest of the production cycle.


Before you start making any changes, however, keep in mind that any changes made upstream may negatively affect what had been working downstream. Take the time to create flow charts and fishbone diagrams as needed to avoid opening a new can of worms. Always ask “What if” and follow the process through to the answer.


A post-mortem isn’t about solely focusing on the failure. It’s a great time to also focus on what went right. Itemize your strengths in addition to your weaknesses. What strengths can be leveraged for future success? Maybe it’s a particular piece of equipment, process or employee. In fact, evaluating successes is as important as evaluating failures. When things go amazing well, find out why and work to repeat the process!


It’s tough to endure a failure and choosing to do a post mortem on it can feel like adding insult to injury. However, you can be certain that world-class performers are thoroughly evaluating every single failure. That’s exactly how they got to be world class. No doubt Jordan felt the sting of every loss, but he used the losses to figure out how to win. Evaluation of missed shots led to improved performance and victory. World class indeed.

In order to expedite your post mortems, you must have some data, or else you’re guessing or will be relegated to the tedious and time-wasting (to say nothing of profit wasting) trial and error method. MPower specializes in helping you capture and evaluate the data you need. Contact us and we can help you map out your plan to improve your processes, profitability and join the world class… however, we can’t help you with your jump shot.