How to learn from a Setback?

Setback  — something that causes a delay or stops progress

At work, you will often find setbacks because of multiple reasons. Some common ones are miscommunication, mismanagement, no planning, incorrect expectations, waiting without direction, unclarity, inactivity, playing safe, wasting time, indecision, misguided, lack of judgement, inability to anticipate, urge of being right all the time, not accepting mistakes, keeping quiet etc

Yesterday at work, I also faced a setback. We had decided internal deadline with an available time of 4 hours and two team members working on it. There was 3 task agreed upon out of the 6 tasks. It was given after an hour of meeting. In my opinion, each task was explained in detail. They knew exactly what was needed to be delivered. You guessed it right that nothing was delivered at the end of the day.

The most disappointing parts were a) each task was half done, which means none of the tasks could have been shared with clients for feedback b) One task was done in a completely different manner, which was opposite of what the client was expecting at the first place c) One of the team members never worked on the task because she was not asked for help d) For some time the same team member worked on something which was not even in the priority, e) At the end of the day when I was trying to figure out what was the gap, the lead of both team member was unaware of what is going on. f) No one was wrong at their part but it doesn’t looked like a team is working g) There was not communication or questions or complaints that was raised during the 4 hours in our group chat.

This fiasco can be observed from many layers, me as a leader, the team members as professionals and their lead as manager. There was fundamentally a bigger issue we were facing. I showed my emotions during the call and mentioned. I don’t know the answer, and I am very unhappy with how things are going on.

This post is written to help a junior most team members. She never got a chance to work. I want to help her to learn from the situation.

Instead of giving her the advice, let me give her a list of 10 questions I think she should ask herself and ponder upon these questions.

  1. Now the disaster is done, what could have done differently in the last 4 hours?
  2. What top 3 things that was in her control that she could change the course of the outcome?
  3. What was the 3 things she did not anticipated (expect or predict) at all?
  4. What are the 3 bad qualities that all her 4 leaders demonstrated?
  5. What is even possible to do the delivery in the said time? If yes what would it looks like and what would have been her role in it?
  6. What according to her was the root cause of the problem and could she break the problem in detail and write it down?
  7. What would have been a statement of defence for each memeber of the team that lead to the current situation and what was one mistake that happened by each one of them? (This includes all 5 team members including me and Gautam, the manager, 2 team mates)
  8. What could she have done better to be more prepared for the situation when she knew the commitment was not fullfilled at all?
  9. How the situtaion is effecting her mental health and what kind of strong emotions she is having? (like I felt disappointed, sad, frustrated and even a little angry)
  10. What are the challanges she is facing by working in a dysfunctional (not operating normally or properly) team?

I am not saying that the onus was on the junior team member. However, you can learn better when you are a junior so that you don’t become the leader that you don’t like working with.


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