Preventing Problems with a Monday Morning Quarterback

On Sunday night, it is likely that you and 113 million of your closest friends were holding your collective breaths (and fistfuls of junk food) as the New England Patriots squeaked out a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks to win Super Bowl 49.  It was one of those rare moments where the exciting play on the field actually exceeded the hype of the commercials.

The Patriots clinched the game when Malcolm Butler intercepted a goal line pass from Seattle’s Russell Wilson in the closing seconds of the game.  Seattle’s coach, Pete Carroll, nearly collapsed into a heap at the sidelines, holding his head in his hands, wondering what might have been.

After the play, the commentators and millions of fans wondered aloud:

Why did Carroll choose to throw the ball when a running play would have been much safer!? Especially given that the Seahawk’s running back, Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch is virtually unstoppable when fueled up on Skittles and adrenaline!?

In a post-game press conference, Coach Carroll accepted responsibility for the decision, fully accountable for the outcome of the game.  But the media and the public still can’t stop talking about it, calling it a boneheaded mistake.  Sadly, this is one of those cases when the world of sports is a reflection of organizational life.

Whether we’re talking about a botched system implementation or a sub-par product rollout, we often look to place the blame on a particular person.  And while accountability is important, long term success has less to do with who is responsible and more to do with what we learn from failure.  Here are some constructive ways to capitalize on mistakes.

  1. Avoid “Blamestorming” – Upon completion of a project, it is common to have an “After Action Review” meeting where the project team reviews what went well and what didn’t.  Too often, our clients tell us that these meetings turn into a courtroom drama  with people seeking data to determine who is the victim and who is the culprit, which does very little to help the organization learn.
  2. Take a Balanced Approach – When a project isn’t perfect, it is common for high achievers to relentlessly seek out “what’s not working” and develop solutions.   Unfortunately, If we don’t also explicitly identify “what is working” in our implementations, we may fail to identify a strength that can be leveraged or mistakenly change something that is positive, or even lose a best practice.
  3. Make the AAR your APM – Successful teams are in continuous improvement mode.  Our most successful clients use their After Action Review (AAR) meetings as a sort of Anticipating Problems Meeting (APM) in advance of the next project kickoff, to develop preventive actions that reduce the likelihood of problems cropping up again.

At Action Management, we have been helping clients improve planning and execution for nearly forty years.  If you and your team want to avoid the “Monday Morning Quarterback” syndrome, we have tools and techniques to help.  Just give us a call at 800-386-5611.  We would love to be your coach!















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