PPP 015 | Is Failure an Option? An interview with Ralph Heath, author of Celebrating Failure
- Published: Monday, 09 November 2009 23:37
- Written by Andy Kaufman
Total Duration 28:27
OK, here's the situation.... You're the security guard at a data center, giving a new security guard a tour of the facility. Near the end of the tour you point to a button on the wall. The button is labeled "Do Not Push". While looking back at the new guard you remark, "See this button? Make sure you never pu...."
Oops. You accidentally push the button.
What happens? I'll tell you what happens. Lights out. Systems go dead—immediately. No nice shutdown. You turn pale—you know this isn't good.
There's more to the story. The systems people can't get the servers restarted right away. When they do, there are problems with the network. Your company is unable to process transactions.... not for 1 hour. Not for 2 hours. It's not until 15 hours later that transactions are flowing through the system.
Sound scary? This isn't a made up story. It actually happened. Thankfully, you're not in it. But let's say you were... When you get called into the bosses' office, what do you expect them to say?
What are the odds you'd hear them say, "Kelly, get in here. I want to thank you for helping us see how incomplete our disaster recovery plans were. If it wasn't for you, we would have gone on, maybe for years, falsely thinking we had everything buttoned up. You also helped us learn that our shutdown button is too accessible. We'll put together plans to fix that. Kelly, from all of us in senior management, thank you very much!"
Not likely? You're right. In fact, in the real world version of this story, the accidental button-pushing security guard got fired. Enough money was lost that management decided "Someone must die! We need flesh!"
Was this the best way to respond? Though normal, does it fix the problem by firing the guard? My guess is the new guy never pressed the button! But did it really fix things? Or did it just assign blame.
Ralph Heath is the author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. Just the name of the book made me want to interview Ralph! How often do you hear Celebrate and Failure in the same sentence?
When things go wrong--even in a big way--what's a leader to do? Can we really celebrate failure without creating a culture of complacence? Could the way we react--such as firing someone in the name of accountability--actually create additional dysfunction?
These are issues that Ralph wrestles with in his book. I look forward to your feedback on the interview with Ralph in this episode. Have a great week!