Making small changes significantly reduces the odds of failing.
Success expert John Maxwell says there are 6 basic reasons that people fail to achieve what they set out to do. These 6 reasons also apply to business failures in general. Business failure in this context doesn’t mean the end of the business, rather it means failure to complete initiatives and achieve specific goals. These 6 reasons cover almost everything and are about as simple as it gets.
Caveat: These are performance-related, not environment-related reasons. However performance-related failures by far outweigh environment-related failures.
1. Poor People Skills.
Many people are excellent planners, hard workers, but don’t understand other people well. In order to be successful it’s not enough to like and understand people; people have to like and understand you. Those who are successful continually improve their people skills by observing and emulating others that excel in this area.
There is a myth that only extroverts have good people skills, but this is not true. In fact, introverts tend to empathize with others better and pick up on social cues better than extroverts. People skills failures with introverts tend to be on the communication end rather than the emotional end---a shortcoming easily remedied.
2. Goals and Abilities Don’t Match
This mismatch kills enjoyment in the workplace and just about everywhere else. It also causes project failures. Motivational academic Gilbert Brimm says that people are most comfortable pushing themselves about 25% beyond their current capabilities: any more than that and we’re frustrated, any less and we’re bored. You know you’re around that 25% when you find yourself completely absorbed in the task.
In the workplace, we don’t often have control over the difficulty of the project we’re assigned to work on. One way to cope with a task too difficult is to break it up into smaller more manageable stages. One way to cope with a task too easy is to make surmounting the boredom a challenge in itself.
Stubbornness can result from undisciplined thinking and lack of awareness—which can both result from sheer busyness (or laziness). If a project is causing you a lot of tension, temporarily extricate yourself physically. Removing yourself from the tension-inducing environment for even a minute forces you to break the cycle of negativity.
4. Lost Focus
People that are very bright tend to get bored and lose interest close to the finish line. Once they see that the project will be successful, they start thinking about the next challenge. This results in a lot of unfinished or poorly finished projects. Once you notice that you’re losing interest in a project, make a detailed list of steps that need to be completed or milestones that need to be achieved before you can move on to something else.
5. Cutting Corners:
The temptation to cut corners is strongest when we’re bored, pressed for time, and when we’re tired. In any of these 3 states it’s easy to gloss over the possible consequences of a careless job. The thing is that later on when you are no longer bored, in a hurry, or tired, cut corners will come back to haunt you. Keeping the long-term consequences in mind will reduce the temptation.
6. Bad Information:
Bad information is everywhere. You can’t blame the information source for misinformation that you supply. It’s your job to ensure that the information you bring to a project is correct. At Toyota, everyone from managers on up knows that they are responsible for the accuracy of the information they report to others. Period.
Website updates are projects with a very high fail rate for the above reasons, specifically:
People are often given responsibility for tasks that are beyond their skill level---i.e. a Web designer is asked to edit copy.
They involve a number of different people that are entrenched in their disciplines and unwilling to compromise—a developer refuses to reprogram the designer’s revised contact form.
As the project nears completion, it’s very likely that the developer, designer, and writer have started working on their next projects.
The sheer volume of details (especially regarding usability) makes cutting corners very tempting.
Information is coming from many sources, making it hard to sort the good from the bad.
The good news is that if you pinpoint the cause, the solution is easy—one of the reasons many have found Maxwell’s list so helpful for so long.