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8 July 2008

"Mistakes will be made"

In 1948 William McKnight gave this advice to the people of 3M:

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative.

This requires considerable tolerance.

Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made.

But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative.

And it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.

(Read about him here.)

I post this because in many projects and in many organisations the game is set up so that you play by a certain set of rules, which in most instances also set you up to fail. Don't be afraid to break away from pre-defined processes and approaches when it's the right thing to do.

You have been hired because of your expertise. Part of your responsibiliy as an expert is to apply your judgement to the obstacles and opportunities that come your way.

And, of course, learn from your mistakes.