Out there in business advice land, there's lots of writing about how good company cultures celebrate, encourage, or, at least accommodate, mistakes. Much of it is pablum, but there are some OK treatments of the topic (here's one I stumbled across).
Some other examples include: (1) An old friend, and founding member of the digerati, Esther Dyson, used to e-sign all her email with "Always Make New Mistakes" and (2) the founder of several companies that I've worked with over the years exhorted his employees to "Make Mistakes, but Don't Tank the Company."
As Stephen Colbert would have said, there's "truthiness" in all of these statements. But, sophisticated management teams understand the nuances of the situation. Too often, the cultural tagline, "it's OK to make mistakes", gets interpreted as "it's OK to move fast and be careless". That is not a way to build a successful company. Intelligence and common sense need to be applied.
Here's my take on the way to express the approach that good company cultures should take towards making mistakes. I call it the Ten Commandments of Making Mistakes.
It's OK to make mistakes if you:
- were paying attention at the time
- were not affirmatively trying to make a mistake
- had both planned and prepared before making the mistake, and weren't being careless in doing whatever resulted in the mistake
- were not repeating a mistake that, while new to you, had already been made by others in your Company
- weren't making a mistake that, with some minimum amount of research, you would have found out that others had already made
- had checked with some others before making the mistake
- aren't making a mistake that tanks the Company
- were obeying a law of minimum common sense while making the mistake
- admit it was a mistake when that becomes apparent, and
- spend time learning from the mistake -- so that you don't repeat it.
Unfortunately, this is way to much to fit in a company culture statement, but maybe management teams can figure out how to let it percolate out into the Company over time.
P.S., I'd love to get other formulations and approaches to the culture of making mistakes.