Failure tolerance culture

If we want to be truly innovative and supportive of creative endeavours of team members, a level of failure has to be expected. some things will work. Other things won’t. From an organisational culture perspective it is not so easy to create this tolerance for failure. It requires a concerted effort from all managers primarily to not punish staff for a mistake or error and equally for peer to peer respect in these situations.

It assumes that the company expects employees to give their best work and best effort and trusts them to deliver. Most companies I have come across although they would love to have this approach, very few can create it consistently because there are always some managers who want to rule by micro management or autocratic style and aim to make their team feel small intentionally or not.

Yesterday it was inspiring to listen to the story of some of the team at Lifesum, a health and lifestyle application, on how they consistently have to work on keeping tolerant of failure. They also said it required creativity to deal with the behaviour you don’t want in an organisation when people were abusing the system. When given responsibility, some people will rise to the occasion others will only do as little as they can get away with, although personally I believe that will be the minority especially when team culture is high performance driven.

Failure in science terms is disproving a theory and that in it’s own right is often a success. In business especially in a European context, failure is often seen as shameful and something to be avoided. So to go against the grain of culture and society takes a strong management team and culture. As a person I find it hard to stomach failure when they affect livelihood and profitability, so creating a tolerance even for myself from within is first of all creating acceptance that failure is normal. I use game analogies because that is how my brain works, in a game you often fail and run out of lives, but it means in a few hours you can start again. In life the same holds true for most failures, very few are fatal. Even the failures with high impact can often be recovered from.

To get started with creating this culture means setting expectations of trust and performance effort,which is built on over time. It starts with each individual exploring their tolerance or lack of tolerance regarding failure for them. It requires thought on how to deal with those that really are not delivering anything rather than failing. Feedback delivery becomes very important and to keep tolerance and acceptance intact whilst messaging for the behaviour that you want instead.

How are you working with failure and maybe even creating a failure tolerant culture?

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