It Is Time to Fail Faster
Founder and Managing Member Ron Slee shares words of wisdom he heard recently in today’s blog post: It Is Time to Fail Faster.
I never thought that I would call for “failing faster” in my life. Imagine failure? Of course, if we think about this, a moment’s failure is important to anyone who is interested in getting better at how they do things.
I was given this “line” by Stephanie Smith, Vice President of Marketing from Newman Tractor on a recent Podcast with Mets Kramer. We were talking about Marketing and the Digital Dealership and how fast change was happening. Stephanie calmly stated that we have to learn how to fail faster. I stopped her and asked her to repeat it. I found it to be so profound. Days later, to me it is still a very profound observation.
I was in school in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was a very basic education. Nothing particularly fancy. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. My Mother was a teacher, she was the Vice Principal at the grade school I attended. She chose all my teachers. I couldn’t get away with anything. My Grandmother was a teacher in the proverbial one room schoolhouse. She got a Master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in the early 1900s. One year I was doing miserably in Geometry and Latin. I hated studying so I refused to memorize. I either understood it or I felt it was not that important. My Grandmother took over my schooling on the weekends. I spent several months with her every weekend. The first semester I got 38% in both Geometry and Latin. That was unacceptable to Granny. By the final report card, I averaged 78% for the year. I had no choice but to stop failing. I was “taught” a very important lesson that year. It wasn’t “don’t mess with Granny.” No, it was “apply yourself or there will be a consequence.” Did I ever learn! That, plus my experiences in the swimming pool as a competitive swimmer, made me who I became.
That led me to my favorite question: “Why?” It seems from a very young age I was always asking why. Perhaps every child does. But that meant I would try things. That was when I started experiencing failure. I remember one instance when I was doing some work in the warehouse at the Caterpillar dealership in Montreal. I think we were moving parts around trying to make more space. Bob Hewitt, the dealer principal, came out to the warehouse and put his arm around my shoulders. I was surprised. Here I was in a sweat shirt and jeans working and dirty in the warehouse. He was in a three-piece suit looking very elegant. He looks me in the eye and says “I am really disappointed in you.” Even in those early years I was rarely at a loss for words. I quickly responded “me too. Why are you disappointed?” I looked up at him and I could see his face start to twitch. He said “when you are finished come see me in my office.” The thing he was disappointed in was that the roads to a remote branch were closed for the winter and I had placed a stock order that wasn’t going to get there. I hadn’t planned for an early snowfall. I told him if I would have known that snowfall was coming, could have predicted that, I would be working somewhere else. True story.
I have made an unbelievable number of mistakes over the course of my lifetime. They continue even today. The trick with mistakes from my perspective is very simple. You are going to make mistakes, that is clear, identify the mistakes as quickly as you can and make adjustments, corrections, fix it. Fast. Today with the rate of change in society, in technology, in telecommunications, in fact in nearly every aspect of our lives is dramatic. Change is coming at us so fast it is impossible to keep up. At least that is true for me.
When Stephanie made the comment, we have to “fail faster” I was amazed. It was so appropriate. It was profound to me. It was an “aha” moment. It forced me to think about things again in a new way. I needed to pick up my pace and make more changes more quickly. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Don’t worry about failure. That is going to be a consequence of doing more things. Mistakes and failures are also a part of the process of learning. You just have to recognize when things don’t work and make adjustments. Make corrections. Everything will continue to be alright. No one is going to shoot me. At least, not for making a mistake.
Thank you, Stephanie.
The Time is Now.