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Learned a New Personal Limitation Today

Nov 2, 2007

Today, I had the unfortunate experience of discovering a personal limitation that I was not previously aware of.  I feel that it is important to understand your limits and welcome these types of discoveries.  Unfortunately, these discoveries typically come paired up with failure.

That was the case today.  A project I was working on earlier this month failed.  I work with several different businesses, customers and websites.  This failure directly impacted one of my customers and that made the failure much more painful for my customer and myself.  It is one thing to make a mistake or fail when it only impacts yourself, and quite another to impact your customer or partners.

I always work to test things for myself where the risk of failure is minimized, fine tune the process and test again many times before I roll it out to someone else.  This time I had tested the process and the product and everything was fine there, but I had not accepted this type of order from a customer before.  There was a good deal of custom work involved and as this custom work began interfaced with my tested process a number of process problems and more importantly delays ensued.

This was compounded a small imperfect storm of blogosphere related fires that happened as planned (by Murphy the writer of Murhpy's Law).  The blogosphere storms were directly related as this project was to take place on the blogosphere.  So I could not dismiss the fires and focus on the bigger priority.  I had to deal with the small issues before I could proceed with the bigger custom project and that ultimately resulted in gridlock and a major slow down.

Lessons Learned

I always attempt to take away lessons from these experiences and apply them directly.  Here are some of the things that I learned:

  • Keep Custom Work Simple
  • Continue to speed up and improve existing processes to enable more time or slack to deal with Murphy's law fires
  • Put in place more sensors so that I can keep my customer in touch with the ongoing status of a project so that any slack, backlog or slippage of milestones can be telegraphed and where possible mitigated by the customer
  • Don't Prepare to Fail, but be Prepared to help customers as a result of failures that I am responsible for

That last point is probably the newest and most difficult lesson for me.  I do not prepare to fail.  I do not expect to fail.  I do mitigate risk both in plan as well as in practice.  In this case, however I had nothing in my bag of tricks to deal with actual failure.

I offered the customer a refund, paid the refund and offered to do the work anyway paying for it out of my own pocket (even thought the work would come in late).  That is definitely not enough, but it is the best I could think of at the time.

Picking Up the Pieces

So as I head into the weekend, I need to pick up the pieces.  I'm doing this in part by going back to basics and getting back to some of my writing.  I am not leaving any of my business ventures, just getting back in touch with my inner voice.  I have fallen behind on my writing and that in part tends to leave me feeling a little out of balance.

I have a large backlog of writing material to cover from the Presidential election to some unique perspectives on the scandal around ticket prices for the Hannah Montana tour to some great satire, movie reviews, book reviews and fiction too.

What has been your experience for dealing with Failure?

If you have had experience with failure and specifically how to deal with that failure, plan for it, avoid it, heal from it, or help others impacted by it, please consider dropping me a line or a link to your perspectives.

WooHoo ed by Brett Bumeter at 3:50 PM  

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