“You need to fail to learn how to succeed”

This quote came from a very good friend of mine who happens to be a rather amazing (and slightly bonkers Ultra Runner). Her running resume includes over 150 ultra marathons, 200 marathons, 40+ 100 Mile finishers, podium finishes at some of the toughest UK races (Thames Ring 250, Chained 130 Ultra and Monarchs Way 615). She is an inspiration to me not just in being a better runner but for what you can take from running and bring into your daily life.

Picture courtesy of Maria Pali

Ellen Cottom recently gave a talk in Sussex, UK about her running career and I followed this afterwards as I couldn’t attend. I said that I wanted to learn more about her DNFs and what she had taken from them and her reply was: “You need to fail to learn how to succeed. I failed at my first attempt at the Monarchs Way 615 and came back the next year stronger and being able to complete it”. This really made me think about my own career and reflect on just how much I was able to achieve after a failure.

Picture courtesy of Martin Sanderson

In Agile, we’re encouraged to “fail fast, fail quickly” to be able to become better, more effective agile leaders. I try to encourage this within my teams but I also wanted to take the time to look at myself and if I’m practicising what I preach. Am I trying to fail fast and fail quickly in my work? Am I trying to constantly do something new and become a better Project Manager?

Looking at my teams and our projects, it can sometimes be difficult to try new things and try to develop and constantly look for positive failure as we are under so much pressure to deliver and deliver quickly so I wanted to use the quieter summer period to review with my teams and colleagues about what we are doing well and what we could experiment with in the coming period to see if we can make our processes better and see what we can ‘fail’ with.

During this retrospective, we came up with the following list of things that we are going to try to fail at in the coming month and we’re going to report back on this to our teams and give a status update.

  • Looking at the status updates that we provide to the team/stakeholders. Can we improve it? We’ve made a suggested improvement and will use this month to gather feedback if this shorter, more concise status update is what the stakeholders need in their projects
  • Updating the “Project runbook” for Go Live by using Slack for all of our project comms rather than Sharepoint
  • Attempt to reduce Email Communications within our projects by 10%. One Project Manager has said that they will not email after 8pm (and has put an outlook rule so that no emails are sent after this time), another has said that they will call if the Email is less than 200 words.

I’d like to know: what can you fail at in the coming week? I’d like to suggest that you take 30 minutes and look at your projects to see what you can do better and where you’re able to fail at.

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