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Breaking the Fad-Failure Cycle

David Straker

-- The pattern of failure -- The four pressures --
-- Breaking the cycle -- And so the cycle repeats --

-- Print friendly one-page --

Breaking the cycle

To break the Fad-Failure Cycle, a new approach is needed which focuses on success through clear understanding rather than success through blind hope. For this to work, the cycle must be changed from where the pressure is for quick results at any price to the focus is on sustainable value based on real understanding.


Figure 2. The Understanding-Succeeding Cycle


From 'Pressure to adopt' to 'Pressure to learn'

The first change in the cycle when a new approach becomes apparent is not a headlong dive into blind adoption but a more careful approach whereby the real pressure is to learn about how the approach really works, developing real expertise and hence identifying how it may be successfully integrated into the company.

This approach does not mean a long and leisurely investigation. The pressure to improve does not go away, making the investigation a matter of great urgency. A critical aspect in this is to manage the commitment of the company and its senior officers through authentic engagement that acknowledges initial ignorance and presses for sustained improvement.

From ‘Pressure to deliver results’ to ‘Pressure to deliver value’

A pressure to deliver results leads to just that: results that can be reported as 'proof of success', but which may be based on obvious problems and limited real understanding. A focus on sustainable value may start with limited results, but real understanding increases in leaps and bounds. As incremental learning decreases, results escalate to sustainably higher levels.


Figure 3. Real learning and escalating value


From ‘Pressure to explain’ to ‘Pressure to spread knowledge’

In the blind fad approach, when failure sets in, fingers start pointing and the focus turns to value-less blaming and witch-hunts. With a sustainable approach, failure is treated as an opportunity to learn and to avoid repeating that particular piece of history. The real pressure here is to multiply the learning by spreading it throughout the company, including what works, what does not work, and why.

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