You learn from your failures. Not your mistakes (because you can gloss them over), and not from your successes (because they’re hard to reproduce).
You learn from your failures. In one of my last companies we had a saying: if we aren’t failing every week, we aren’t trying hard enough. Failure is a good thing, learn from it.
You learn from your failures. As an individual, a team, a company, hell even a relationship. When you well and truly fall on your face and it hurts is when you take a step back and learn because you never want to hurt like that again.
Which is where the project “post-mortem” (or debrief) comes in. Some companies do this when an issue is too big to ignore and it turns into a blame fest. Some do it every project but it’s just procedural and nothing is learned. Others try not to upset anyone in the room because after a failure can be an emotional time.
The Value of Learning
Real debriefs have real value, and you should never let a good failure go to waste. It is a chance to evaluate the people, technologies and processes that led to the failure.
I’ve been involved in dozens of project debriefs across a fair number of companies and agencies, and wanted to distill my learning on this both to get feedback from the world on how you do post-mortems as well as maybe just to help folk who are struggling with this issue. No, it isn’t rocket science, but open learning is almost never a bad thing!
Three Rules of the Debrief
There is a fundamental problem with most debriefs. They are too long, too personal, not actionable and demotivational. If you are going to run a debrief you need to focus. Get everyone to agree to these rules up front:
- Keep it short: The tendency is for these to be 2-hour long meetings where you delve into everything. 2-hour meetings are always a fail because you never want to repeat them. Try to keep these discussions focused. Your first one might be long, but aim towards an hour.
- Keep it professional: Especially in big projects that fail, there is the temptation to either attack someone else, defend yourself (or both). The moderator (independent non member of the team) may have to enforce professionalism brutally, but agreeing to this rule helps keep things from escalating into an argument.
- Keep it actionable: Too many debriefs get lost in the minutiae. The goal of the debrief is to come out of it with things you can change, not just a list of what went wrong and who’s fault it was.
Three Tips for Successful Debriefs
- Post-Its Are Your Friend: It is too easy to kill conversation. Whenever someone raises something irrelevant (like an issue during the timeline phase), put it on a post-it and put it to the side. You never want to lose an idea to the ether, or ignore feedback after all.
- Run by an independent: Someone in the project running it means someone with a stake, and something to lose. Independent moderators focus on value (and value their time more because they have nothing to prove). Ideally this would be someone with relevant expertise to keep things on track.
- There are no seniors: In a debrief, everyone is equal. Don’t allow seniority, expertise or personality to allow someone to dominate the conversation or detract from team learning.
Three Phases of the Debrief
Since most debriefs lack focus, here is what you should be covering:
- The Timeline: Develop a timeline of what happened. Both right and wrong, what was the story arc of the project? Every project has a story, so tell that story. If people start to get blamey or emotional or focused on the negative, shelve that til the next portion of the exercise.
- The Issues: Dave Fleet once ran this section using post-its, and I’ve become a fan of this approach. Hand out a whack (technical term) of post-its to each person. And have them list every issue they can think of. Then put them all on a big board and group them. These issues can be actual challenges, technical issues, process issues, management issues, anything. Remember Rule 2: keep it from being personal (ie: not “Doug let the servers go down”, but “Server Uptime”).
- The Actions: Actions matter. If there are issues identified in phase 2, they should have an action associated with them. Keep actions SMART. When you produce a list of actionable items, assign someone to check up on them in a month.
Ending the Meeting
At the end of every meeting, you should always know if the meeting has been valuable. So close off with focusing on wins not just fails. While the purpose of the debrief is to learn from mistakes, anytime you leave a meeting talking about mistakes for an hour is demotivational. End with the wins and successes to remind you and your team that while things went wrong, that failures aren’t the whole story.
What Do You Do?
So this is what I like to do. What do you like to do? Do you love/hate debriefs? Had good/bad experiences with them?
Let me know in the comments!
At the last minute, I got asked to lead a few extra panels at BlogWorld this week. As a result, I needed to structure, chat with and open up a bunch of panels really quickly. I’ve always structured panels I moderate in a similar way, but decided that codifying it for my panelists would both save me time and give them some advanced notice (since some only got this 2 days before the conference!).
Personally, I prefer to lead discussions vs canned presentations. I also prefer to ask the audience where they are at on a subject (show of hands) so we can tailor the discussion to their needs.
With that in mind, here are my rules for panelists (my rules for moderators are simple: provide value to the audience, make the panelists look smart, be entertaining, keep the discussion on track):
1 HOUR PANEL
- 000-005 – welcome & introductions (30 seconds each) & audience polling
- 005-015 – Biggest Mistake & Most Important Win
- 015-025 – Discussion
- 025-035 – Awkward Questions From Jeremy AKA Continuing Discussion
- 035-050 – Audience Q&A
- 050-100 – Wrapup Statements & Thank You
JEREMY’s RULES FOR PANELISTS
- Have fun
- Don’t agree on everything
- This is a DISCUSSION, don’t be too polite
- This is a COMMUNITY, don’t be rude
- Engage the audience, they’re not just relatively pretty faces
- We’re guests, the audience is the star
- Everyone has an opinion. Bring an example or twelve too.
- Be funny. a. Don’t mock midgets (lessons learned the hard way…)
- Ask each other questions, and ask the audience questions.
- DO NOT CONFERENCE SPAM
QUESTIONS FOR PANELISTS
- Are you okay with your short bio (provided earlier)
- Official title, Twitter ID, website
- Is there anything specific you’d like to cover
- Is there anything specific you DON’T want to cover/to avoid
- Is there a rumour about another panelist I should know about?
I’d love your feedback on this, especially as I’m leading a bunch of discussions with this structure!
Reposted from the BlogWorld blog:
Too often, Social Media is about the MEDIA: spreading the word, getting more followers, making money, growing your traffic, blah, blah, blah, #facepalm… Every once in awhile, though, it’s nice to do the SOCIAL side of the equation, which is what I’m proposing today!
This is the 4th BlogWorld I’ve been to. Each time there are lots of new faces, and everytime they’re just a bit timid, bit scared, bit confused or just a bit… special (sorry @tedmurphy). And while I try my best to show people where session rooms are, to recommend hotels and find cheaper airfare, to publish lists of parties and to hand out my phone number should people need help (416 726 3602 by the way), as Darkwing Duck said: I am the terror that flaps in the night, I am the batteries that are not included.
So, let’s scale this helping people thing. Lots of BWE veterans like to help, and even if you’re new you probably know more than you think you do, so let’s use and follow a hashtag on Twitter: #bwehelps. If you have a question, ask it of the hashtag and I will be checking it. Who else will be checking it? Well if you have more than just your mom following you on Twitter (to be fair, my mom stopped following me years ago!) then you should be. Follow it on your mobile and Twitter client. Give back. Be helpful. Smile!
Let’s be a community. Let’s help. Let’s have some fun. No blogger left behind!
Photo by nicht mehr hier @Flickr
This is not a prostate gland:
That’s because every picture I could find of a prostate gland was disgusting. So for today’s discussion, imagine the above suuuuper cute puppy is, in fact, a prostate gland. Now, you wouldn’t want this prostate gland to die now would you? That’d be sad.
Now imagine how sad it’d be if every guy you loved had a puppy this cute attached to him, and if their puppy got really sick and died they would die too. Now we have not just dying puppies, but cute puppies and beloved dudes dying at the same time!
From the site:
Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st clean-shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month. The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for prostate cancer. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.
Why I’m Helping
Besides a deep love for all puppies (mine in particular), the reality is that men’s health causes sometimes don’t get enough attention. That’s nobody’s fault, but given my puppy could one day get sick, as could the puppies attached to my two kids, I figure it’s my duty to do what I can. Even if “what I can” means “making a fool of myself”…
Cause… Erm, this boy can’t grow facial hair. Even to save my puppy.
But I’m doing it anyways. I’m growing a Mo (moustache), or my attempt at one, and taking on public ridicule cause it’s the right thing to do, it’s fun and, hell, it’s for charity so even the public mockery will be pretty low key.
And you can too!
Want to Help?
I’m helping run the digital program for Movember Toronto. And we’re mobilizing. Now. There are lots of real world events we’ll be supporting across towns. Numerous challenges to organize across the digital space, and a whole whack of silly, sexy and odd pictures of Toronto Mo’s to take, post and promote.
It is our goal to raise $1MM in Toronto for prostate research. And to do that, we need every Mo Bro and Mo Sister (girls that either love healthy puppies or love guys that have healthy puppies) to mobilize.
For now, we’re creating teams to spearhead awareness, fundraising, laughter and maybe a puppy flashmob (I’m quasi serious) across the Greater Toronto Area. So if you love puppies or dudes or just want to see way more Mos next month, here’s what you can do:
- Suggest a new team
- Suggest someone for an existing team
- Suggest a sponsor or partner
- Suggest an event
- VOLUNTEER for an of the above
- Choose a team you’d like to lead or co-lead (see below)
The MovemberTO Teams
Here’s my brainstorm (names subject to change), along with Melissa Smich and Michael Nus who are Co-Captains and spreading the word:
- AgencyMosTO: Work at an agency? Which agency will have the best Mo? Which one will raise the most puppy-saving money? Which one will produce the oddest puppy-sized replica of yours truly?
- GenYYZMos: Part of the younger generation? Just cause your puppy is young, doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome. Step up and show how much you love puppies, and sexy guys in Mos!
- StartupMosTO: Startups rawk at doing a tonne with very little. The startup community here in Toronto rawks… so let’s show the world what we can do when we put our minds to it! Besides, we don’t want those AgencyMos raising more money, do we?!
- BrownMosTO: Okay, I’m brown. I know you can’t tell, but it’s true (well half brown). So I want to see my community mobilized. Besides, few people on the planet grow better body hair than the brown man! (present company sadly excluded).
- Others? Let me know your thoughts! What communities should we reach out to? The gay community? Musicians? Artists? Hipsters? Suburbanites? Baby boomers? People named who’s first name is Dave?
Puppies are cute. Prostates are not. Proof:
Save a puppy. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (416 726 3602) to get involved. Or just leave a comment here. Tweet it. Spread it on Facebook. Let’s mobilize Toronto for the good of all cute guys, all cute puppies and all (un)cute prostates.
How to Participate
And Follow @MovemberTO (yes it’s still being turned on, one step at a time!) on Twitter for more updates!
Go to Movember.com and Register. Join the MovemberTO team.
In March of 2008 I weighed 265 pounds. I was fat. Obese even. And on the verge of a heart attack. Thanks to my doctor’s advice I made changes, tried lots of things and now, 30 months later, I’m at nearly 195 pounds. I’m not done yet, but losing 70 pounds means people want to know what works. So here are my tips, based on years of figuring out the lifestyle that works for me.
30 months after I started this journey, I weighed in at 197.5 pounds this morning. My body fat is under 20% (from 55%). I’m wearing 36 jeans, size Medium shirts, and I’m thinner than I’ve been since I was a teenager.
And since I’ve been putting my journey on Twitter, people have started to ask for tips and such. My responses are generally glib, but I’ve decided to post this to help a little bit, since I know when I was starting my journey that glib responses didn’t help.
My Top 10 Tips for Losing Weight
- My biggest tip: Change a habit every month, something small: small changes add up. Cut fast food one month, stop eating after 8pm another month, split portions into two meals another month, drink more water another month. Small changes matter.
- Eat early, don’t eat late: the earlier you eat, the sooner your metabolic whatever kicks in. The earlier you stop eating, the longer your body spends processing the day’s food and then your body fat during sleep.
- Sleep properly: when you sleep, you burn fat. So get that 8 hours. It’s good for you and for your weight.
- Don’t drink beer: yeah, uh, this should be pretty obvious. I do vodka, which is all sugar, but it’s less calories and carbs and all that useless crap your body doesn’t need. Also beer means consuming way too much liquid late in the evening, which is just silly in the first place.
- Have an active support system: weight loss as a private journey is bound and determined to fail. I’ve blogged, used services and used Twitter. Twitter worked for me, find out what works for you.
- Celebrate your victories: I couldn’t have lost 70 pounds if I’d set out to lose 70 pounds. Set targets that are achievable (10-20 pounds per target) and then celebrate those victories. My friends and family, via Twitter, celebrated too.
- Have multiple motivations: don’t just make it about weight loss. Track your waist size, take measurements, really track anything you can cause that number on the scale isn’t the only thing changing. Take pictures to show how stuff looks even if it isn’t changing on the scale.
- Eating better is easier than exercising more.
- Walk more. I listen to music and walk for an hour or two, checking email, making notes to myself and generally chilling. Relaxation in general is good for you, so kill two (or in my case 5) birds with one stone. Yoga might be better for you. Do something that combines relaxation with exercise without requiring a huge commitment (like 3x per week at the gym, which is hard to sustain).
- More meals, smaller meals: eat more often, but less, and stop eating when you’re full.
Ultimately losing weight is a lifestyle change. It’s not a diet (though those help sometimes). It’s not an exercise regime (though having more muscle mass means burning more calories). It’s not a number. I’ve found a lifestyle that works for me. It won’t work for you. So alot of the above is geared towards helping you find that lifestyle.
There will be plateaus. There will be weight gains. And it’s definitely a long term proposition (it’s easy to see the 70 pounds of weight loss as a big number, but it’s over thirty months… if you have more than 25 pounds to lose, half a pound a week on average allows you to have some ups and downs without stressing out).
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: you can do it. It will be hard. But with the right support system, a flexible plan and a focus on the long term it is more than possible for you to lose any amount of weight.