How often do you test something to the point of failure?
Life has a tendency of throwing a spanner in the works, but if you have already anticipated the consequences and have a plan to deal with it, you will be able to cope with most obstacles that come your way.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were preparing for a cycling trip. We were going to be completing part of a mountain stage of the Tour de France, and the excitement was slowly building. We felt physically ready for it, and the adrenaline would be certain to carry us through the mental battle. However, somehow I had this nagging feeling that we had not sufficiently tested our equipment. My wife had recently fitted a new chain to her bike, and I urged her to take it for a testing ride to ensure that it was up to the challenge.
She set off, and sure enough, an hour later I got a phone call at work. The chain had broken, and she was stuck in the middle of nowhere. I jumped in the car and picked her up. We had a laugh about it, but it wouldn’t have been very funny if it had happened when we were halfway up a mountain. It would have ruined what was in the end a wonderful experience.
We stress tested the chain, it broke, and we then made sure that it was fit for purpose.
There are so many parallels here for business – both for individuals and for teams. How can you know what you are capable of it you don’t push yourself to the limits of your ability? How can you know what your team can achieve if they are not given an impossible challenge every now and again? Getting something 100% right is a waste of potential – you could have given more.
It all comes down to the attitude of your leaders and the resilience of their teams. Failure is an essential part of any challenge – you learn far more from what you could have done better than when you achieved perfection. When your “chain” snaps, you simply start again and build a stronger one. If you test it to breaking point before you need to, you can be sure that you will be ready to tackle even the most Herculean of challenges.
We shouldn’t be so scared of getting things wrong.
If we are reprimanded by our managers for every failure, we will take fewer risks. The fewer risks we take, the less we will grow. The less we grow, the further we are fro our potential. Our chains will be nowhere near breaking point, and we will never understand where they need upgrading.
If that “mountain stage” does come along, we will barely get up the first incline before our bike gives up on us. Test your chain to breaking point on a regular basis, or face the inevitable consequences.
A rusty chain is no good to anyone.
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury