What do you do when things go wrong?



Ever have a moment with your team when things don’t go as planned?

Someone—or the whole team—underperforms or doesn’t deliver…
An important ball is dropped…
The results you expected—absolutely did not happen…

As a leader, how you handle these moments will make a critical impact on your team, maybe even make or break your team.

When you or your team make a mistake or experience failure, what do you do? Do you have a clear, simple process for review?

Consider this: have you ever felt blamed for something going wrong—or have you blamed someone else—without an opportunity to explain what happened?   

Too often I see leaders quickly assign blame to someone (or a team) for things that go wrong, without taking time to explore what really happened.

Team members are then conditioned to conceal issues, for fear of being blamed. They also don’t have the chance to process the learning from mistakes, and then the mistakes are often repeated.

We all make mistakes, right?

When working in project and management teams, our work is generally not linear and predictable.

Breakdowns, mistakes, failures happen.

I’m sure you have been told that when we see breakdowns as valuable learning opportunities, everyone benefits.

But HOW do you do that? How do you effectively learn from mistakes?

Would you like an easy-to-use framework to review what happened and conduct a post-mortem on what went wrong?

I developed The Breakdown Assessment Tool for this purpose.

My clients love it. It is a simple and straightforward way to stay focused on what happened. Using it changes the dynamics of a conversation. The focus is on accountability and learning, and away from blame.

Here’s an overview of the framework.

There are 3 steps:

#1: State what happened—clarify the facts without judgement.

#2: Review each of the 4 areas (listed below) to assess for a breakdown—ask questions, include discussions with those involved or affected, and those with a stake in the learning.

#3: Capture your learning in writing—share the assessment with those who will benefit. Identify actions you can take.

4 Areas to Assess for a Breakdown
Process, system or structure

Each of the areas has sub-areas, such as human error, skills or experience, and reliability in the Competence area. There is a guide with questions to get you started in your assessment. Once you start using it you’ll easily move from breakdowns to breakthroughs.

You can get a free copy of the full Breakdown Assessment Tool here.

Seems simple right? It is, once you start the practice of asking the questions that uncover what happened, not just focusing on who is at fault.

This makes it easier to fail quickly to learn fast!

Start generating more Breakthroughs!

Enjoy the journey,


Deborah Naish