What Worked, What Didn't, What's Next?
By Michael Angier
One of the common denominators of successful people is their ability to
persevere when things don't go as planned. Effective people don't allow
themselves to get bogged down in feelings that don't serve their purpose.
On the other hand, ineffective, unsuccessful people allow their emotions to
rule rather than their rational and objective nature. They lament what happened
or what didn't and become victims rather than masters of their circumstances.
We all have disappointments. We all suffer setbacks. If we're going to
attempt anything worthwhile, we're going to experience failure. The mature, and
ultimately successful person sees failure as part of success. When one method
fails, they try again with a new one. Sometimes it takes many attempts.
In my coaching and consulting work, I see all too often the tendency to fix
blame instead of fix problems. Rather than looking at challenges rationally and
objectively, emotions are allowed to dictate the process.
They're unable to make corrections without invalidation. Something goes wrong
and they want to blame. Profit isn't reached fast enough and someone needs to be
fired. There's never a shortage of people or things on which to blame the
I suggest a different approach. It's a process I call, "What Worked,
What Didn't, What's Next?"
This practice works whether you're dealing with a business, a relationship, a
project or your life. The key is to evaluate often, objectively, and then to
And the more often and impartially you measure and evaluate, the better it
works. It's just feedback-and feedback is neither positive nor negative. It's
simply information. I call feedback the "Breakfast of Champions".
Looking at what happened with a healthy degree of detachment allows us to make
What actions moved us toward our objective? What's worth repeating? What felt
good? What created excellence?
Acknowledge your successes. If it's a big one, celebrate it. Praise your own
as well as the efforts of others.
When you focus on what worked, you begin with positive energy. And you create
momentum toward solutions.
Ok, where did we screw up? What created the mistake? Not WHO dropped the ball,
but when, where and how did we drop it? How can we avoid it next time?
It's rarely PEOPLE who mess up but rather systems that don't adequately
support them. Most people mean well and try their best. The focus should be on
how to better support one another to reduce errors and increase quality.
There are many ways to accomplish what you desire. Often, in finding NEW
ways, we create things we never would have if the first or second effort had
Acknowledge the mistakes, make new plans and devise new strategies.
Regardless of how well or how badly things went, IT'S HISTORY. Nothing is going
to change the past. Being upset about it, feeling guilty, placing blame-or even
resting too long on our laurels will cause us to lose headway.
One might be wise to use the US Marine Corp acronym, FIDO-Forget It, Drive
On. But I would add one more piece; learn from the experience.
After you analyse what happened, the question should be, "What's
next?" This takes the focus off from what's happened and places it on where
we're going and what needs doing.
You can quickly go through this process alone or with a group. It can take a
few moments or several hours depending on the complexity of the project.
The key is to do it with impartiality and objectivity. Mistakes, corrections
and new attempts are merely part of successful ventures. They don't mean
anything, they're simply opportunities to create excellence.
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