By Vicki Wrona, PMP:

Recently, a colleague made a statement that I love and thought I would explore that with you. She tells her teams, “Don’t make the same mistakes, make new ones.” This resonated with me for several reasons.

First, she gave her team members permission to explore, be creative, and make mistakes at work. If you are never wrong, never fail, or never make a mistake, then you aren’t pushing yourself and growing personally. The same goes with work. If you have never worked on a project or initiative which has had trouble or has not succeeded 100%, then you haven’t stretched yourself. Anyone who has worked on larger initiatives or more complex projects has had problems, even failures. Not everything succeeds. What we want to do is take control where possible and avoid those issues or problems which can be properly managed, minimizing the occurrences of problems or failures that are beyond our control.

Second, this statement emphasizes the rule to avoid repeating past mistakes. How do we avoid making the mistakes that have been made before? By reviewing lessons learned and familiarizing ourselves with the problems and issues that prior similar projects have had. We can also interview our SMEs (subject matter experts), those who have been involved with similar initiatives in the past. They have a wealth of information if we make the effort to talk to them and ask the right questions. I would suggest that when you initiate a discussion with a SME that you are prepared with the right questions to gather the information you need.

Another way to avoid making the same mistakes is to involve SMEs in the project or initiative. We cannot do all of our work alone; unfortunately many managers or project managers believe they are supposed to. That is not true. Involve your team, talk to SMEs inside and outside your team as well as outside your organization where possible, use all the resources you have. If at first blush you don’t think you have many resources or help, think about it some more. With some thought, you’ll probably realize you have access to more sources of information and knowledge than you think. Be proactive. I’ll bet you know of managers or project managers who are able to gather intelligence better than others. Emulate them.

In closing, keep this phrase in mind when managing your own work as well as other people. Be the role model you need to be.

How have you helped yourself or your team stretch beyond the comfortable while avoiding making the same mistakes?

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