There is a tendency in the business world to treat each project’s outcome in a binary fashion—as either a success or a failure. This dichotomy rarely reflects the reality of project outcomes. It also makes it difficult to accurately evaluate the team’s performance post-project and make necessary adjustments. Even worse, some teams and organizations fail to do any post-project evaluation. By neglecting to do this after-the-fact analysis—or doing so through a rigid, binary lens—you risk missing out on valuable lessons.
Few Truly Binary Results
Teams and their leaders love to pat themselves on the backs. Although it’s important to celebrate successes, this can sometimes mean failing to take stock of what might not have gone so well in a project. Similarly, even when a project is declared a failure, it may have had some successful elements. In other words, few projects are truly binary in their outcomes, and both positive and negative lessons can often be learned.
Learning from Mistakes
Whether an overall project is a success or failure, there is always an element of success in the fact that new knowledge and experience have been gained. Effective teams will not simply shrug their shoulders at a failure; they will explore the reasons for failure to gain insights on what could be done to succeed next time.
Even at work, failures can be taken hard and personally. So much of our individual self-worth is wrapped up in our occupation and the work we do. Evaluating the specific causes and contributing factors to failures can provide team members with a sense of closure and acceptance, allowing them to be able to move on and succeed at the next challenge.
It’s natural for teams to desire to move on from a completed project to get started on the next priority. But there are valuable lessons to be learned from any significant project. Failing to take stock of those, or failing to dig deeper than a simple declaration of “success” or “failure,” represents a big missed opportunity for team and employee development.