May 22nd, 2010


Analysis of Failure

I've been prompted to think about this by the fact that a company which has been doing wedding catering was, a few years ago, at the top of the list that people recommended, and everyone wanted them to cater for the weddings in their own families. From this position, I find that today, no one wants to use them at all. There were several incidents I myself noted at weddings, which gave me a signal that things were deteriorating.

Certainly this is failure. It set me thinking about the various factors that doom an organization or an initiative to failure, even while it seems to be at its most successful.

1. The time has passed.

Timing, or being "at the right place at the right time", would be one of the factors that spell success. The product that is offered has to be one that the public is looking for. Perhaps, after the passage of a few years, this service is no longer needed....for example, the availability of phone booths, manned by physically handicapped people, was a greatly successful effort in the Indian cities of a couple of decades ago; now, with the widespread use of mobile phones, these booths no longer command the volume of business they used to.

2. Reliability reduction.

A business is built on its reputation of reliability, and if this factor is undermined, the success of the business will also go down. The loss of reliability is in many cases due to

3. Lack of manpower.

As a business succeeds, the employees feel themselves to be worth more and more, and migrate to other businesses where they are paid better...and the original business resorts to employees who are less trained, and raw, and whose lack of experience can mar the success of the initiative.

4. Delusions of Permanence: Complacency

This is one of the most insidious causes of failure. As success favours the enterprise, those who are running it become convinced that the success will continue indefinitely, and in becoming complacent, they start putting in

5. Less effort.

They tend to forget that every initiative needs sustained effort and work, and the neglect of it shows through very soon. The lack of effort is also compounded by

6. Lack of genuine negative feedback.

Every successful business tends to generate feedback of "that's great!" that, at first, is genuine. But as time goes by, and small problems appear, very often, it's common that people only give positive feedback (which may be more polite than genuine) and do not give negative feedback. Those who believe only the positive feedback, and do not take, or act upon, negative reactions, are stepping into the minefield of failure.

7. Factors beyond control.

An Act of God, inflation, a new development that renders the service (repair of VCR's!) or the product (beepers!) obsolete...all these could contribute to eventual, or sudden failure.

I'd like to have your opinions on more factors that could bring down a thriving effort or organization...

How to spot a Hummingbird

I've never before seen a Hummingbird in Missouri, and when I've seen them in California, they were always at about my height, visiting the my first sighting of one of these birds high up on a tree in Forest Park, was a bit of a surprise!

Here's Hummingbird-Spotting 101:

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RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (though in the rain it's a Black Blotch Hummingbird):

hmgbd 4 130510 fp

Here's a GOOD shot of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (taken by Danny Brown , who's one of the most helpful people I've met here!):

db r t hummingbird 220510 shaw nature reserve

Much pleased with your sightings of the GHO's and the RTH, you slosh home happily in your sodden shoes.

Update: on the 22nd, I saw another of these beauties at the Muny:

rth bird 3 muny

This post is dedicated to another hmmngbird.