Pandemic Failure – Failure Unabaited

A couple weeks ago I gave a keynote speech at the Enterprise 2.0 conference entitled, “Embracing your E2.0 Failures” (watch the video here).  There I talked about three different types of failures, Pandemic, Catastrophic and Intrinsic failure.

At the beginning of the keynote I showed this video I created which exemplifies the most dangerous of the three failures: Pandemic Failure:

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Pandemic Failure has three main characteristics:

  1. It runs rampant within a culture.
  2. It is obvious to most within that culture and it is often discussed and complained about.
  3. Rarely does anyone take action to make the needed changes.

This is the most dangerous because bad behavior becomes an acceptable way of working or accomplishing a task.  For example, when was the last time you were in a meeting you didn’t really need to be in, but felt obligated to be there?  You didn’t lend any real advantage to the meeting nor did you take away much.  Not that it was completely worthless – you probably did get some good information out of it – but what you did get was not an hour’s worth of your time.  You could have received it another way in only about a minute’s time.

But we too often work this way and it is acceptable.

Pandemic Failure leads to apathy and diminished effectiveness.  And this is why it is the most dangerous type of failure.  It allows for growth while at the same time stifles it and can bring down whole subsets of cultures.  It gives a false sense of security and at the same time an overall uneasiness.

Overcome Pandemic Failure

How do we overcome pandemic failure.  Like anything else, we first need to recognize it.  Then, we can’t just let it go.  We need to actually do something about it.  And it probably won’t be comfortable because it will be part of the culture.  It will take guts because you are challenging the status quo.  Everyone will be on your side, yet no one may back you.  It will be a very strange situation to be in.

Yet if you let it go, you become a victim of an annoying culture trait.  And I don’t know about you, but any time I become a slave to something that is ineffective, I feel I must change it.

So here is to all you Change Agents!