Friday, 19 June 2015

Why do we fail?

Philosophers Samual Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre back in the 1970’s tried to answer the question: “Why do we fail when we set out to succeed?” They observed that sometimes it is inevitable because it is beyond our capability. However if this is not the case then we fail through ignorance or ineptitude. If we are ignorant of how to do something then it is more than likely we will make mistakes and fail. However, even when we know what we are doing in theory, mistakes can happen, procedures are not followed correctly or our assumptions are wrong.

At work most of us will never fail because it is beyond our capability. I don’t know if that makes most of us boring, but who would hire someone if there were any chance that they were hiring them to do the impossible? Normally it is only researchers and inventors that have that problem. For the rest of us, we fail because of ignorance or ineptitude.

So when it comes to managing people how to we ensure that we will succeed. After all success is in our grasp. Well, ignorance can be combated through knowledge; specialists, training courses and books are out there to help us. However knowledge is only part of the problem, it is the application of knowledge that determines our success.


Do you know that when it comes to disasters there are three types of people; those who can always cope, those who could cope and those that can’t. The ratio is about 20:60:20, a Prato principle. 20% even without knowledge or planning can think on their feet enough to know what to do. 20% even with all the knowledge, planning and training will still go to pieces and panic. However the remaining 60% could follow a procedure if they have been trained.

That is why every time you get on an airplane you are told what to do in an emergency. That is why you take part in fire drills and first aid courses.  But there is no point in trying to find out which type of person you and your colleagues are. If you are in the 20% who could cope, well a little extra training and knowledge can’t hurt. If you are in the 20% who would just panic, then the more people about you with the skills to cope, the greater your likelihood of surviving. And if you are in the majority then with a little bit of training, your life could be saved. So it is better to train everyone in the skills and knowledge to survive an emergency. 

However this philosophy does not apply just to disasters. Everyday the unexpected could happen. If you are in the 20% who could cope, that’s great, as long as you are always there, you know everything will work out. However, you can’t guarantee to be there when the emergency arrives, absence or holidays will prevent that. I was always told that “A good manager could cope with the unexpected. However a great manager never has to be there.” That is because they have set up procedures and delegated reasonability. A great manger thinks ahead, anticipates what could happen, then sets up procedures to cope with any contingency.

I help mangers to set up procedures to cover what if scenarios. Using my many years’ experience, of working with companies around the world, to set up and organise staffing operations, I can help you predict what will happen. I can tell you how many of your staff will be absent each day, then help you set up procedures to combat every possible scenario. Then you don’t have to worry about absence. Holidays are predictable, they will happen every year, so I can help you spread out everyone’s holidays so that they can have the time off they want without disrupting the operation. Workload can be predicted, it doesn’t matter how random it may seem to you, there is always a pattern, there is always cause and effect. I can help you see the patterns; I can help you adjust your staffing levels to match. Then I can help you set up procedures so that the warning signs are recognisable and the procedures can be followed.

So help your staff succeed! Be a great manger not just a good one and ensure that come plague, school holidays, Christmas, or the World Cup, your operation will run effectively. Have a Business Health Check and ensure that you have the best shift pattern for your staff and contingency plans to cope with the unexpected.

No comments:

Post a comment