Do you always have excuses for failures or mistakes? Like when you created a product that fail to sell, you blamed it on the lack of features or the poor marketing.
I do not deny there could be many reasons for failures, but what I do not agree is the way how people conveniently blame it on other things other than themselves when they fail. I actually learnt this the hard way from my mentor. I have made a lot of excuses for my mistakes, until my mentor stripped them off me and I stood naked (of course, I mean this figuratively) and I got nothing to hide. Imagine yourself having nothing to defend yourself, nothing to shield yourself. It was unnerving for me at first until I began to understand why he did that. And I had to say it was a life-saving experience for me.
Imagine your life, where you complain and are not satisfied with some of the things that happen to you but you do not do anything to change the situations. Like while you feel you are not making enough money or the small business you started long time ago is not going anywhere, but you do nothing (or very less of what you should do) . Instead of spending the times to work to get the money or improve your skillsets, you go to enjoy and hoo-ha with your friends in every free times you have. Then, you continue to complain about not having enough time and you blame it on all other things except yourself and the choices you have made, which are apparently stupid.
That is where I guess most of us live in our own defense, denying that we are the one who actually screw up our life. Not other people. Not our family, not our bosses and definitely not God.
Well, my mentor, he made me came out of this defense. To stand naked to the truth that I was the one who had not been reacting to my life. I was the one who denied myself the chance to be successful.
The approach he used to do that is none other than the 5-Whys technique famously used in Toyota, one of the top quality rankings automative makers in the world. The method is simple. Just keep on asking whys until it get the bottom of the causes, where usually it becomes clear that the root cause is due to the individuals and not the weather, relatives, or economy, etc.
As preached in most of the self-help books, while at most of the times we cannot change situations or other people's behaviors, we certainly can change our thinking and responses. Thus, most of our mistakes and failures originate from ourselves. We are the one who should be in control. We should not let the external factors affect us or the results. That is also why we need to keep the 3 principles in mind when we do anything, to guarantee results.
Here are some examples on where the 5-Whys is used to get to the root causes of the failures and then act on them (change them or do whatever it takes!).
Why we fail to sell this product?
Because customers find the product is not useful.
Why do customers find the product not useful?
Because the product does not really help them improve their revenues in business.
Why didn't we make or design the product to help customer to improve their revenues in business?
Because we do not know that is what customers want in the first place.
Why didn't we know that in the first place?
Because we do not do any market research or product analysis to come out with the proper product design.
Why didn't we do that in the first place?
Because we do not know that is necessary and we do not know how to do that.
Why didn't we know that and if we do not know that, why we do not ask for help? (notice the same questions are repeating?)
Because I am not capable. Because I did not do my job well as the head of department. Because I just do not have the knowledge and experiences to make this successful. (this is where it gets to the individual's mistake, where the general term "we" is stripped off and one have to take the responsibility to own up to one mistakes.)
In that case, why should we let you keep your job if you are not really doing your job well?
Because I learnt from this mistake and I know what are the right things to do next times.
And why should we trust you will succeed the next time?
Because there will be no excuses for failures and I will be solely held responsible for it.
I have to admit I exaggerated a bit here to make the point. But this process of asking whys are very important to get to the bottom of things and to take actions. Notice also the causes of the failure change from the product to the people or the team (we) and finally to the one who are responsible for the team result. (I).
In my experience, I encountered people repeating the same mistakes and given the same (or slightly altered) excuses each time for the failures. One of the people is ME, which I have vowed to change. And I am changing . Not trying to change (trying is not good!), I am definitely changing. No more excuses, right?
In one of the company I worked in, during the span of 5 years, we encountered 4 of out 5 products failed to deliver the business values and revenues for the company. The 4 failed products are consecutive, which means only the first product are successful (maybe, out of luck) and for the rest of the products, we kept on repeating our mistakes and gave ourselves all sort of excuses to defend ourselves (and our jobs).
This example is how my mentor had changed me, stripped down of all my defences and make me realized that I need to change and improve myself first before I can really do things efficiently. Of course, this is the summarized version. I hate to admit this but my defensiveness and stupidity were worse than depicted here. But I have learnt my lesson and dare to admit my mistakes so that YOU ALL can learn also and benefit from this.
So, how about YOU? Have you realize and admit YOUR MISTAKES?
Mentor: Why you made that mistake?
Me: Sorry, I did not follow what you have told me.
Mentor: Why you did not follow what I have told you? Did you choose to defy me?
Me: Sorry, I did not choose to defy you. I just forgotten at that point of time.
Mentor: Why you cannot remember what I have taught you?
Me: It did not register in my mind at that point of time. And I did not stop to think.
Mentor: Why is that?
Me: Because I did not listen properly, I am forgetful and I always do things on impulse.
Mentor: Why you are like that? What cause that?
Me: Sorry, it is my bad habit. Things are not organized and in place, that's why things are jumbled up and I cannot think and do things properly.
Mentor: And what you need to do?
Me: I need to change. I will listen properly. I will remember things. and I will always think carefully before I act. And most of all, I need to start to organize everything, so that everything is in place and I have a clear mind and space to do things efficiently.
Well, that are exactly what I am going to do and improve myself. So, the next time things screw up, ask yourself all the WHYS until you get origin of the problem.