Category Archives: failure

10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

Post on failure by Tony Morgan, “10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail” is really worth sharing, so here is Tony’s list…

10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

  1. It’s not your passion. If it doesn’t make your heart beat fast or cause your mind to race when you’re trying to sleep, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
  2. You don’t have a plan. You need a vision, and you need to identify specific steps to make that vision become reality. That includes a financial plan. (I happen to believe you need direction from God on this.)
  3. You’re waiting for it to be perfect. Test-drive it. Beta-test that new idea. You’ll fall into the trap of inaction if you think it has to be absolutely right from day one.
  4. You’re not willing to work hard. Everything worth pursuing in my life has involved discipline and perseverance.
  5. It’ll outgrow you. Keep learning. Keep growing. But more importantly, build a team of people including leaders that can be who you’re not.
  6. You’ve had success in the past. I’ve watched organizations hang on to a good idea for too long. Time passes. Momentum fades. It’s risky to let go of the past and jump on the next wave.
  7. You’re unwilling to stop doing something else. Complexity is easy. Simplicity takes discipline. You can’t build a healthy marriage if you’re unwilling to give up dating other women. Who/what do you need to stop dating?
  8. You won’t build a team of friends. Anyone can hire from a resume. You need to find people you want to share life with. In the long run, great relationships will get you out of bed in the morning.
  9. You won’t have the tough conversations. When breakdown happens (and it always does), someone needs to put on their big-boy pants and initiate the difficult conversation that leads to relational healing.
  10. You’re afraid of failure. When fear consumes you, it will cause you to do stupid things. You’ll let negativity distract you. You’ll embrace the known, and grow comfortable with mediocrity. The more often you fail, though, the more often you’ll find success.

Skitt’s Law Applied to Kaizen

I became aware of a truth about lean problem solving and kaizen yesterday while reading an article about ten internet rules and laws.

4. Skitt’s Law

Expressed as “any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself” or “the likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster.”

It is an online version of the proofreading truism Muphry’s Law, also known as Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation: “any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror”.

Language Log quotes the following example, from Paul Ordoveza’s How Now, Brownpau? blog:

“For too long, we linguistic pedants have cringed, watching this phrase used, misused, and abused, again, and again, and again. ‘This begs the question…’ [we hear], and we must brace ourselves as the ignoramii of modern society literally ask a question after the phrase.”

While Mr Ordoveza’s point is entirely valid (“begging the question” is a logical fallacy, meaning to “beggar the question”, or assume your conclusion in your premise – not to raise the question), the plural of ignoramus is ignoramuses.

It was apparently first stated by G Bryan Lord, referring to a user named Skitt, on Usenet in 1998.

Skitt’s Law applied to kaizen would be “any action to solve a problem will contain at least one problem itself” or “the likelihood of a problem resulting from a proposed solution is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause” to the person who is promotion the particular solution. Just as all standards should be considered temporary until improved, all improvement ideas should be considered provisional until they are not proven to be ineffective. Too many times people approach problem solving or kaizen as a process of championing a favored solution, only to be blinded by its failings. This results in embarrassment when a solution proves ineffective but the organization has already committed too much time and resource, as well as personal reputations, and it is difficult to change course gracefully at that point.

We should keep in mind Skitt’s Law and assume that all kaizen ideas are full of holes, no single countermeasure will solve the problem entirely, and that some countermeasures may solve one problem but cause another. Toyota uses the term “countermeasure” for a reason, rather than “solution” because they understand problem solving to a taking a series of measures to counter root causes of problems, rather than to put so-called solutions in place and moving on.

As with anything, kaizens can contain errors. Many times the countermeasures are the result of solution-jumping and shallow or non-existent root cause analysis. Just like we should run spell check before sending out a piece of writing, we should spell check our problem solving thought process by tracking the solution back through the root cause to the original problem statement using the “therefore” or “so what” test.

The kaizen process must be inherently self-skeptical. While being confident that we can surely solve all problems (the what), we should always be challenging the method or solution itself (the how). The PDCA cycle is all about checking and adjusting our plan, learning from the result of the do phase. The learning is as important, if not often more important, than the solution that is put in place. Remember Skitt’s Law and check your work. Don’t fall in love with your kaizen ideas because love will blind you. Keep a healthy skepticism and be prepared to love and nurture all kaizen ideas.

Speaking of healthy skepticism, there were two other laws also worthy of note:

8. DeMyer’s Laws

Named for Ken DeMyer, a moderator on There are four: the Zeroth, First, Second and Third Laws.

The Second Law states: “Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.”

And to bolster my argument with another quote from the internet,

7. Pommer’s Law

Proposed by Rob Pommer on in 2007, this states: “A person’s mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.”

The internet is a dangerous place for a curious mind…

By Jon Miller – October 26, 2009 12:15 PM


It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out where the strong man stumbled, or where a doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, and who comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. The man who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who never knew victory or defeat.

– Teddy Roosevelt

10 reasons you are hated

Your team hates you. Really. They do. They hate their boss (you) but they just won’t say so because they like getting paid. But when they go home at night, they spill their bile about their taskmaster of a boss who does nothing but drive them crazy (isn’t that what you do too?).

It’s been a while since I’ve been controversial (okay, maybe the post on trust not being the most important aspect business partnerships was provocative but I’m talking controversial at the level of the I don’t care about your degree post). For this post, I’ve been sure to drink a glass of vinegar before typing.

If you don’t start fixing some of these behaviors, you might end up with a mutiny on your hands. In today’s world though, that doesn’t involve them tossing you in a dinghy – instead they’ll all just quit their jobs.

Before you go all “Mike has lost it again. This post doesn’t apply to me so I won’t read any more of it.” I’d ask you to spend the 2-3 minutes it will take to spin through the below list and see if any of the points resonate. If you make it through all ten and can honestly say none apply to you, bravo (related: are you hiring?).

If some of the points do resonate, I’m asking you to commit to rectifying some of these behaviors. We’ll all be happier that way. To assist with that, I’ve offered some suggested behavior modifications for each of the ten.

Full disclosure – I’ve been plenty guilty of some of the below behaviors. Fortunately I’ve had talented folks around me help me work on many of them. I’m not perfect by a long shot yet. I guess what I’m saying is all of these things apply to all of us even in some small measure.

So here goes… 10 Reasons Your Team Hates You:

10. You don’t prioritize. Everything is important. When you do this, you remove your team’s ability to say no to less important work and focus their efforts on critical tasks. The fix: write down all the tasks you have folks working on and FORCE yourself to assign a H, M, or L to each task (and treat it as such). Thou shalt only have 33% of all tasks in each of those three categories – you can’t assign everything a “High” importance.

9. You treat them like employees. You don’t know a darn thing about them as a person (which makes them feel like nothing more than a number). The fix: read this post about 7Up.

8. You don’t fight for them. When is the last time you went to bat for a team member? And I mean went to bat where you had something to lose if it didn’t work out? When you don’t stand up for them, you lose their trust. The fix: identify something you should have gone to the mat for recently and get out there and fight. Get someone that raise they deserve. Go fight for them to get that cool new project.

7. You tell them to “have a balanced life” then set a bad example. You tell them weekends are precious and they should spend them with their family then you go and send them emails or voicemails on Sunday afternoon. The fix: either curb your bad habit of not being in balance or learn how to do delayed send in Outlook so your messages won’t go out until Monday morning.

6. You never relax. You walk around like you have a potato chip wedged between your butt cheeks and you’re trying not to break it. When you’re uptight all the time, it makes them uptight. Negative or stressful energy transfers to others. The fix: laugh, get a remote controlled car or tricycle to drive around the office, or put on a Burger King crown. When you relax, your team knows it’s okay for them to relax too.

5. You micromanage. You know every detail of what they’re working on and you’ve become a control freak. They have no room to make decisions on their own (which means yes, they’ll make a mistake or two). The fix: back off. Pick a few low risk projects and commit to not doing ANYTHING on them unless your team member asks you for assistance. It’ll be uncomfortable for you. Give it a try you micromanaging control freak.

4. You’re a suck-up. If your boss stopped short while walking down the hall, you’d break your neck. Your team hates seeing you do this because it demonstrates lack of spine and willingness to fight for them. It can also signal to them that you expect them to be a sycophant just like you. The fix: try kicking up and kissing down instead.

3. You treat them like mushrooms. Translation: they’re kept in the dark and fed a bunch of crap. Do you ration information? Do you withhold “important” things from them because it’s “need to know” only? All you’re doing is creating gossip and fear. The fix: stop acting like 007 and spill some beans.

2. You’re above getting your hands dirty. You’re great at assigning work. Doing work? Not so much. They hate watching you preside (and they hate it even more when you take credit for what they slaved over). The fix: get dirty. Climb under the proverbial tank and turn a wrench. Roll up your sleeves and pick a smaller project you can handle in addition to your other responsibilities and DO THE PROJECT YOURSELF.

1. You’re indecisive. Maybe. Or not. But possibly. Yeah. No. I don’t know. OH MY GOSH MAKE A DECISION ALREADY! That’s what you get paid to do as the leader. You drive them crazy with your incessant flip-flopping or waffling (mmmm waffles… oh. Sorry… still writing). The fix: DO SOMETHING! Acknowledge you might make a mistake but do something. A team is much more likely to follow a leader who makes decisions (even some bad ones) than a leader who makes no decisions at all.

There they are: 10 reasons your team hates you. Do any of them fit? I’ll tell you what: I DARE you to email this post to your team members and ask them to anonymously circle any of the above behaviors that apply to you. I then further challenge you to fix the one or two that have the most votes. Trust me – all of you will be happier if you do. How’s THAT for provocative?

No Rx for Lean

by Jamie Flinchbaugh, Lean Learning Center

I recently have had the opportunity to review a wide range of sites and companies and provide feedback on their lean journey. One of the things that really surprised me was how many of them were still trying to follow a prescription for lean. I heard things such as “the book says to do this but it doesn’t work for us, what should we do?”

Simple, drop it or change it.

Too many lean thinkers (I use the term loosely because to me, they aren’t thinking) try to take a prescription or recipe and apply it across all sites within a company universally, or across multiple companies. There are many people to “blame” for this (sorry, hate to even use the word) from authors to consultants to new hires into companies. Here’s an author that we’ve come across that in my opinion is part of the problem. His statement includes:

I reduced applying lean to almost a prescription that you can follow with detailed steps that have been proven, time and time again. I have a number of case studies in the book where the prescription is laid out and you just have to implement it.

That’s a prescription for one thing: failure. We hope that you don’t follow the same approach. Every organization is different. You have different cultures, resources, skills, business needs, restrictions, and hopefully a vision of your own ideal state that you would like to achieve.

Understand your current state, have a vision of where you would like to go, and chart your own course of action. This is a lot more work, and that’s probably why some people avoid it. But it’s working on the hard that separates from the good lean efforts from those that fail. Take ownership. Only you can lead your organization, don’t try to rely on a prescription.

What Baseball Can Teach Us About Innovation

In a chat last week, Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein explained why he wasn’t bothered by J.D. Drew’s relatively low number of runs batted in (quotes from Joe Posnanski’s blog):

“When you’re putting together a winning team, that honestly doesn’t matter. When you have a player who takes a ton of walks, who doesn’t put the ball in play at an above average rate, and is a certain type of hitter, he’s not going to drive in a lot of runs. Runs scored, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you look at a rate basis, J.D. scores a ton of runs.

And the reason he scores a ton of runs is because he does the single most important thing you can do in baseball as an offensive player. And that’s NOT MAKE OUTS … Look at his runs scored on a rate basis with the Red Sox or throughout his career. It’s outstanding.

You guys can talk about RBIs if you want … we ignore them in the front office … and I think we’ve built some pretty good offensive clubs.”

Business managers can learn a lot from how baseball general managers build and manage their talent portfolio by drawing on the findings of baseball’s Sabermetrics revolution. And the same is true for business managers trying to balance their innovation portfolios: how can they focus on the metrics that really matter?

According to the old-fashioned metrics, the run-batted in is a vital statistic. But smart general managers like Epstein recognize that the RBI is not a valuable measure of performance (it actually correlates with the on-base percentage of the hitters earlier in the lineup).

Innovation managers, too, need to look beyond “obvious” but potentially misleading statistics like first-year revenue, first-mover advantage, and leveraging core competency to hidden drivers of success, such as targeting non-consumption and minimizing first year losses.

A key enabler of the statistical revolution in baseball was not just better statistics, but the widespread availability of those statistics. Even before the internet made possible utterly fantastic websites such as Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus (which is also an annual book), the bible for statistics was Macmillan’s Baseball Encyclopedia, introduced to widespread acclaim in 1969. (Alan Schwarz, in The Numbers Game: Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination with Statistics, quotes from Christopher Lehmann-Haupt’s review in the New York Times: “I got lost in it for nearly two days…. It’s still the book I’d take with me to prison.”)

Companies should create an internal encyclopedia in which they highlight the year they started work on each innovation, what type it was, how projections about its market potential changed through time, its key characteristics, and its ultimate performance. The encyclopedia would facilitate statistical analysis to help the company increase its success rate.

Even better would be a cross-industry research effort to develop a deeper and broader reference work. A researcher who painstakingly created a like-for-like database of efforts across multiple companies (made anonymous, of course) would do the innovation movement a great service.

Key to the effort would need to be a robust categorization scheme for classifying the type of innovation (incremental line extension, disruptive, and so forth), the target customer (high-end, mainstream, low-end, nonconsumer) and the market circumstances (nascent, rapidly growing, mature, declining).

Better metrics give Theo Epstein a competitive advantage over his rivals. And better metrics can give you an advantage over yours — and create better innovations that benefit all of us. What else do you think would be in an ideal innovation encyclopedia? Is there an open source way to create a “good enough” starting point?

For a more in-depth argument about what you can learn from baseball about building and managing your
talent portfolio, see my article in this month’s Harvard Business Review.

Failure: The Secret to Success