A spectrum of reasons for failure, three of which are laudable

Nine reasons for “failure” are listed in the Harvard Bus. Rev., April 2011 at 50, and three of them are commendable. This seeming paradox has strong significance for managers of in-house lawyers. We can praise failure if someone deliberately and thoughtfully tried something new and it didn’t succeed (referred to as “Exploratory Testing”). After careful analysis, let’s suppose, we retain a firm we have not used before but for whatever reasons the matter they handle goes bad.

Or a team in a legal department sets up a knowledge management experiment, with good intentions and as much planning as they could muster, but the idea just doesn’t take hold “Hypothesis Testing”).

Finally, also in the benign category of failure is “Uncertainty” – the most common failure that does not deserve censure.“ It is “A lack of clarity about future events causes people to take seemingly reasonable actions that produce undesired results.” The hard-won indemnification clause results in a contentious, time-consuming monitoring or litigation. Who could have known?

Each of these reasons for lack of success deserves respect, not blame. They were good tries and sometimes the soufflé flops – well done, better luck next time, what did you learn? If perfection becomes the rigid and critical standard, progress grinds to a stop.

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