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
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 failure.
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 move on.
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 better decisions.
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
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
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 succeeded.
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
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
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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