We’re living in a success hungry world where companies and organisations only ever want to publicly talk about their wins and achievements. What you don’t often see plastered across social media is the harsh reality of losing a client, and the toll it can take on some companies or people. While we all know failure happens in business to everyone, not many talk about it in detail, publicly. Let’s change that.
Without question, this was one of the hardest moments in my four years at 3 SIDED CUBE. Something I had never experienced here. It’s not something I celebrate or talk about with great pride and joy, but I do know the only thing that separates people who succeed from those who don’t is a proper understanding of the power of failure.
Success requires learning from mistakes rather than falling into despair and giving up. So in the hope we can help other people and companies I wanted to share some of our learnings from this recent failure to help prevent this for others.
Most of our projects result in a technical build and a solution that can be measured through multiple KPI’s. In these instances, it can be relatively straight-forward to measure success and have a good, comprehensive understanding of what success looks like.
Where this becomes slightly more challenging is when you’re prototyping or simply working on design, which as we all know can be very subjective when dealing with multiple stakeholders. In these instances, you will need a tighter steer on what your client deems a success.
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions upfront, and the better your understanding of what “success” looks like to them, the better your results.
Project Managers are usually the gatekeepers, and if you’re dealing with multiple stakeholders, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get to know each and every one of them. I don’t mean finding out their birthdays and what alcohol they like. I’m talking about understanding their thoughts on your involvement, what their expectations are and why they are so.
You will never be able to help manage stakeholders expectations if you don’t know the full picture.
Our failure here was not understanding the full picture with every stakeholder. In this instance, there were a couple of stakeholders that did not agree to using us in the first place. Although this didn’t come to light until afterwards, with enough questioning perhaps we could have uncovered it sooner.
We’ve all had a client ask us to do something “because the [boss/sponsor] wants it that way”. If you’re being requested to make a change for the wrong reasons; change that won’t add real value, stay true to your values and your end users. Challenge; do not be afraid to do this and stand by your decision.
In this instance, we did stay true. We don’t believe in complicating solutions for the sake of adding bells and whistles to please a stakeholder. The best possible solutions are beautifully simple.
In any relationship, you know when it’s working and when it’s not. Don’t keep going back. It’s not healthy for either of you. At the point where alarm bells are going off, don’t be afraid to call a meeting or pick up the phone and have THAT conversation.
We did exactly this, together with the client, but it’s important we encourage this way of working to ensure relationships aren’t severed completely, and no long lasting damage is done.
You need to know the highs and the lows and discuss what went wrong in your eyes. And of course why.
The more information the better. It should always be done face to face or at the very least on a call. A form doesn’t always give you the full picture, and by talking it through it will unearth anything that was at missed at first.
This was an international client, but we did do everything via video call.
While nothing is stronger than meeting in person, this was the closest we could get and was a very constructive conversation. One I’m very thankful we had.
Finally, learn from your mistakes and experiences and put those learnings into practice.
Absolutely no-one is perfect, and no business is perfect. Mistakes will be made, failure will happen, but if you truly learn from your mistakes and put those learnings into action, then it WILL lead to success.
In this instance, I’m sharing our learnings in the hope that highlighting some of these will help prevent at least some failure moving forwards.
Published on May 6, 2021, last updated on March 16, 2023