Learning from mistakes

By Richard Davis

We would probably agree that we stand to learn more from our setbacks than from what goes well. Wow, it can be painful though!

I returned from a two year OD assignment with an NGO in Cambodia, which until the final fortnight I would have judged an almost blemish-free success. Unfortunately, in the final days one of the changes my client and I had been pursuing blew up in our faces. And yet as I look back, the writing was on the wall:

  • Some key members of staff were not consulted about a strategic change for their organisation because it was known they wanted to take it in a different direction
  • The organisation’s board took hugely varying positions from week to week and seemed increasingly desperate to get a solution
  • Even though they had been friends for twenty years and agreed on the solution they wanted, on this issue the chair and chief executive did not trust each other

    As the organisation’s consultant, I think I should have stopped providing any advice when I could not talk to the unhappy staff for fear of inflaming the situation. My problems became that I could not see their part of the picture and therefore understand the influence they were having. But I carried on, because I didn’t want my client to think I would not ‘help’ him.

    I pray that this week you and I will do good work and be able to learn from our own and others’ mistakes!

  • What was the last major mistake you made at work?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • How will you put that learning into practice this week?