How to Fail Forward at Work?

Everybody knows failure at work is normal. Nobody likes to be THIS normal at work.

Failure is the new king in the workplace. Nobody wants to hear another success story to learn from. Failure teaches the lessons and inspires the colleagues. So, since failure is such a big thing these days, the question is, how to fail for success?


In order to fix something, you need to see it first. As it often happens at work, just because your boss sees a problem, does not mean it exists. And vice versa. So, this step needs to be revisited as often and as much as needed, before anything can be done. Agreeing on the problem in the workplace is 50% of success already.


Admitting to failure will only get you this far, as it is a generalized statement. Inspection of failure is therefore a vital part to becoming better, not bitter at work. It is important to understand what exactly failed in the process. Maybe it was the preparation stage? Means of communication? Wrong team? In order to fail forward one needs to see what to (not) do in the future (or differently). Otherwise, failure is pointless.


If you failed, it’s a sign for change, big or small. If the roots of the problem are identified right, this step is easy. Means of communication not working? Change channels, means, or frequency. Action steps were wrongly chosen? Peel one more layer of the onion to see who and why chose the steps. Did you rely on past records because it’s “the usual way”? Then, implement other selection criteria. Point is this: for every problem there is a solution. But the solution needs to fit the problem, like the hammer fits the nail, so to speak.

Follow up

Nobody likes follow up. It’s boring and dangerous, as it may lead to more work. And so the majority chose celebration, over follow up. But, in order to make sustainable changes, follow up is a must. Not to say that celebration is not great, but it’s step 5, not step 4 in the failing forward process.

Failure does not make one bitter. Quite the contrary, it is the most important part to becoming better at what you do. And not only the what, but the how, the whom, and the where. 4 steps to not become bitter instead of better when failed is to accept the problem, identify the reasons behind it, make the necessary changes, and follow up on those changes. These steps guarantee problems become lessons, and change is sustainable.