“Mistakes are part of the DNA of a great team”

– Really?  That doesn’t sound right.

Professor Amy Edmondson discovered this as part of her research on the NASA Challenger disaster.  It seems counter intuitive that successful teams make more mistakes than less well performing ones, but she dug deeper and found that it was more likely that the success came from admitting, discussing and learning from mistakes.

The next logical question is – how do you create an environment where people feel confident enough to admit that have got something wrong and are happy to share it with the group?

Firstly, recognise that there are good reasons for mistakes to be made – someone didn’t have all the relevant information, there was peer pressure to hit a deadline, the understanding of the risk was poor.  I could go on.

Secondly, bring more focus on review time.  It is well recognised that time spent on planning can make savings later on – but often less emphasis is placed on reviewing a task or project.  This is when you can really focus on what is going well and what you should do more of.  Seeing mistakes in that light is really refreshing – not a deep dive on what went wrong (and whose fault it was!) but a conversation about what could be done even better next time.

And lastly, lead by example!  Behaviour breeds behaviour and showing that you will admit and learn from mistakes will be a really powerful enforcer with your team.