Be The Mistake Maker – or – You are Going to Screw Up At Some Point

Mistakes the teachers of the titans of industry. They cost so much but probably have the largest return on investment as any commodity or service. In my years of work I have made a few epic mistakes. I think the last medium sized one was not confirming that a particular super hero of a developer knew that a tricky project was actually responsive. I could hear his face wrinkle and contort into the visage of horror all the way in Texas and he lives in the north……. WAY NORTH.

If mistakes are made ….. DO NOT PANIC

If there was one piece of advice I can give about mistakes especially from a project management perspective is don’t panic at all. You can not panic. If you are part of an agile team even if everyone else is someone has to not panic preferably everyone would not but that never happens.

The temptation is to point fingers and self preserve but we all know that a good project manager would jump on a sword for his team. So self preservation aside the blame game does not create solutions even though it might make your hurt ego feel way better. The best thing to do is identify your own short comings and then accept them openly before anyone else can point them out. Make it a point that if you make a mistake that whoever needs to know about it, client, boss, team member, ect, they hear about it from you first before anyone else can tell them.

Become Bullet Proof

There is an a verse in the Bible and I am taking it a bit out of context so we can’t build theology off of it but we can use this nugget of truth to help us.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 – King James Version (KJV)
Abstain from all appearance of evil.

When you try to hide your mistakes even if you are working diligently to fix them, you appear dishonest or shady. If you own your mistakes first and then set about fixing them you not only secure resources and help for the fixing but you become beyond reproach. No one can unexpectedly sling mud at you that you already smeared all over your body.

The most important benefit to this approach comes in the effort towards correcting mistakes. You have maximized the time and resources needed to fix the problem. Not only does the client know there is a problem, but your team and superiors know that there is one and they can rally and allocate help to make it correct.

Evaluate and Correct

It has been my experience that mistakes at a job are rarely nefarious. They tend to stem from unforeseen obstacles, a lack of knowledge, genuine mistakes or neglect. When you are in crisis and the mistake is actively being solved seeking out the “reason” for the mistake as opposed to the solution is detrimental to the problem being solved. So playing the blame game or asking “why” something was done is really not helpful.

After the problem is solved and the victory is celebrated then you can evaluate. Three out of the 4 reasons for this takes are really not character issues and are often corrected by experiencing the fallout from making the mistake. Experience is the best teacher. However, if it is neglect then why was it neglected? Forgetting, spending too much time doing what is not their job, perhaps this person is over loaded, or the worst thing they are lazy. These are people problems and there is not way to move through them without working with the people.

How This Relates to Project Management Agile or Otherwise

Being the Project Manager gives you the most opportunity to fail, to make a mistake. If you spend your time going through witch hunts when mistakes are made, you can expect one when you mess up. So do everyone a favor and use the skills you have gained to plot a new course around or through the problem. You will gain loyalty from your team. The project and yourself will be better for it.

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