Depending on your personality type and work environment, one of the hardest things to learn to do is embrace mistakes. Sure, some people make mistakes because they just aren’t trying; and yes, from a management perspective, this needs to be dealt with. What I’m talking about is learning from mistakes. If you are developing new skills, you will make mistakes. If you are working on a project that you and your team have never done before, you will make mistakes. If you are leading an innovative project boldly going where no project has gone before, you will make mistakes. What is important is that you learn from those mistakes, recover quickly, and hopefully avoid them in the future.
Agile promotes the concept of failing fast. In product development, for example, say a team spends two weeks making a prototype and presents it to the customer. The customer might say, “This is great!” And the team might say, “Wonderful, now we know we’re on the right track.” However, the customer may also say, “This sucks! It’s not what we wanted at all!” Well, that might be hard to hear, but it’s also good. You’ve only spent two weeks so far and now you know what the customer doesn’t want. Through further discussion about the prototype, you can probably start to get a better idea of what they do want.
It’s the process of discovery. Sometimes it takes time to discover what is most valuable to a customer. This back and forth of presenting something, getting feedback, and then presenting something based on the feedback is a process. No one should feel bad about not knocking it out of the park on the first try.
The Concept of Continuous Improvement
With mistakes come opportunities to learn and improve. At Silicon Valley Project Management (SVPM), we are committed to the concept of continuous improvement and have incorporated it into our processes regarding both customer requirements and our growth as a team. We not only practice this with our review sessions at the end of each Sprint, where we incorporate customer feedback into our future planning and prioritization, but we also try to learn from our mistakes to become a more high-performing team. For example, at the end of a Sprint, we have a team Retrospective, where we discuss what went well and what could have gone better. By the end of the meeting, we usually come up with one or two things we want to change or try for the next Sprint. We’re just trying it on for size. We’ll discuss it in the next Retrospective to check if it actually helped. This is continuous improvement in action, and it makes us a stronger team.