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It’s Okay to Fail Until It’s Not

It's Okay to Fail Until It's NotIt’s very popular to talk about failing your way to success. Yes, everybody fails at some point and if you haven’t failed, folks will say it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough. So the idea of continuing to fail until you succeed is very inspiring.

Until you fail at the wrong thing.

Richard Nixon failed at integrity and ever afterward disappeared from the political scene.

Michael Milken failed at  sustaining the integrity of the junk bonds and he was pretty much banned from the financial industry.

Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow failed at financial integrity. Jeffrey is still in prison and …I’m not sure what Andrew is doing now.

Arthur Anderson failed at doing the proper accounting thing and the company imploded.

Tiger Woods failed at marital propriety and that translated into troubles on the golf course.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Bill Clinton seems to have successfully resuscitated his image after lying about his dalliance. Unfortunately, Wall Street seems to have recovered nicely after failing to maintain the fiscal integrity of the banking sector back during the Great Recession. You hear about actors and actresses falling off the proverbial wagon and getting back on to greater acclaim.

After having listed these failures, I see that failure of trust tends to have a more lasting severe consequences, with some notable exception (hint, Wall Street); otherwise, you can fail and you can bounce back.

Why am I bringing up the topic of failure? Well, for the last two weeks, this vendor, whom we rely upon for data, failed in its reporting. Last Monday was especially severe with a discombulated report that was the shoddiest thing I have ever seen. For some units, the report worked but for others, the report didn’t. For those whose report didn’t work, sometimes it was a simple matter of a row of data being shifted to a different column. Sometimes, unit numbers were missing. Sometimes, the report printed out the same set of information ten to fifteen times. Sometimes, the report showed zeroes instead of numbers. Other times, the report would rearrange the layout. What a mess.

My automated reporting system could not handle the errors from this vendor’s report so we had to nix it this week. My boss was about ready to give up on the automation and go manual. I must say, it was tempting after she said that this vendor tended to do things like this. Although this was the first time in 8 months that this happened, once a year error is still one too many times. I spent the rest of this week trying to recover from this fiasco (as well as work on a fire drill from a client – although not as much due to this fiasco).

So, if you are going to fail, fail small so that it does not adversely impact your customers. Fail your way to success, just don’t impact me.

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