Failure is not an option.
It’s a go-to phrase for any action hero, sports coach, or hard-driving manager looking for their own “win-one-for-the-Gipper” moment. But in reality, project failure is often a fact of life for creative teams. From simple mistakes to entire projects that miss the mark or fall short of delivering the expected results, eventually everyone—and every team—fails to some degree. In fact, an estimated 70% of projects bite the dust annually.
Whether these failures turn into positive changes for creative teams or death spirals depends on how well they capture and learn from their work data. Those creative teams that foster visibility—into resource workloads, assignments, team communications—will always have the information they need to turn any failure into a step forward.
Here are five reliable ways your creative team can gain the visibility they need to spot, eliminate, and overcome failure and deliver consistently better results.
1. Email Failure
Relying on email to manage work and project tasks can be a nightmare. Once a miracle of efficiency, email has now become the most overused and unproductive tool in the office. In fact, managing email has become such a chore that one-third of workers would rather clean their toilets than their inboxes! Everyone’s inboxes get overrun with clutter, burying critical project data and work requests under an avalanche of other stuff, often for days at a time. Project communication is lost, forgotten, or delayed, and by the time it’s finally uncovered, it’s now completely out of context.
Correction: Email was never intended as task or work management tool, but if that’s your only option, establish a system for better managing work requests. Create a dedicated alias ([email protected]) to which all incoming requests must be submitted, and designate an individual or a group to triage and make assignments. Use a social platform to collaborate within the context of work to avoid disjointed conversations, lost threads, and miscommunication. Or, even better, implement a complete work management solution to handle the entire work request, assignment, tracking, and communication process.
2. Tracking Failure
Conventional status reports are a huge waste of time. Teams spend far too much time and energy updating, sharing, and maintaining complex spreadsheets—time that would be much better spent dedicated to project work. Often by the time the report is completed, it’s already out of date. Updates become guesstimates that happen after the fact instead of in real time. This inaccurate visibility into project status is a tracking failure—deadlines sneak up and get missed, and no sees it coming until it’s too late.
Correction: Create a defined process for updating stakeholders and supervisors as part of the project-planning process. Establish a schedule for when updates are expected, what should be included, and who will receive them. Eliminate cumbersome, outdated spreadsheets by implementing a comprehensive work management platform that tracks all tasks and projects in one place, in real time, and within the context of work to maintain complete 360-degree visibility into the current status on all work in the pipeline.
3. Document Failure
When 55% of office workers are communicating via shared documents, as found in a work survey by Harris Interactive, digital asset and version management can quickly become a nightmare. When multiple versions float around and are shared across multiple formats (via email, in print, etc.), knowing which one is the latest, most accurate version is nearly impossible. A disjointed review and approval process leaves everyone wondering which “final” is really the final-final, and publishing the wrong version by mistake can be a disaster.
Correction: Establish a single document storage and management location along with a standardized filename scheme to clearly differentiate working drafts at every stage from the final approved product. Identify who should review and approve drafts, and define the routing process to ensure drafts flow seamlessly through the process to completion. Give all stakeholders appropriate visibility and access into the system and documents they need to keep everyone on the same page.
4. Tool Failure
Between email, chat, social and collaboration tools, not to mention telephone calls and impromptu hallway or “water cooler” conversations, project communication can quickly become scattered across multiple disjointed tools. Each department or individual might have their favorite method for collaborating and managing work, and when none of these integrate, critical data gets lost and key team members are left out of the loop. You end up reworking or retracing steps, which wastes precious time, frustrates team members, and sabotages project success.
Correction: Consolidate all work-related communication onto a single platform that provides complete visibility to the entire team. Allow everyone to view feedback, edits, and justification for changes to understand the context and strategic objectives. Consolidating communication onto a single platform also preserves the historical context, making it easier to look back at the process and implement lessons learned into future projects.
5. Evaluation Failure
The inability to accurately measure effectiveness and outcomes at each stage of every project is the most common cause of the perpetual cycle of failure. Waiting until the end of the project to evaluate what did or didn’t work is a huge mistake; by then it’s impossible to spot midstream bottlenecks and too late to make a correction. You know the project failed, but exactly what went wrong is anyone’s guess, and there’s plenty of finger-pointing and blame to go around.
Correction: Establish measurement criteria for every step of the workflow and record how well the team succeeded in meeting its defined goals at each step. Once you’ve captured the data, make it a priority—and part of the defined work process—to review the results, identify any changes required, and incorporate those adjustments into the next project. Implementing legitimate measurement metrics and making this “de-briefing” process part of the project lifecycle is the only way to finally put a stop to the perpetual cycle of project failure.
Break the Failure Cycle
While not every project will always go exactly according to plan, no organization or team should accept failure as a way of life or standard operating procedure. By capturing the right data and implementing process changes to improve both team and company success, project failure can become a springboard to improvement and innovation. With the right tools, any team can finally learn from their mistakes and break the perpetual cycle of failure to drive increasingly better results.