From time to time, everyone in life makes what we call a "mistake." This is a situation where what was expected either did not happen, or it happened with some undesired collateral damage.How should one analyze a "mistake"? How should we go about answering the inevitable question: “What went wrong?”It is in the nature of being human that we require an explanation for “mistakes.” Usually, we cannot rest until we have identified some attribution of causality. When none is readily available, we may suddenly become religious: "It's God's will." "The Devil made me do it." " It was not meant to be." And so on.Those “religious” attributions are attractive because they are simple and easy to use. The only problem is that they do not allow us to learn from our mistakes!Another easy-to-use attribution of causality is to personalize the cause. This process is known by many names, but is most memorably known as a "witch hunt." Like the seemingly religious attributions, they are easy. There is a saying: "to put a bell around someone's neck." The idea is that you track down the “troublemaker,” the person “responsible,” and make sure he or she is easy to recognize from a distance – just like a cow with a bell. Notice that the “troublemaker” is objectified and dehumanized in this example.Concluding that a specific person is culpable generally does not lead to anyone learning from the “mistake” -- unless it just happens that a) the problem is in fact this person's fault, which is not always the case, and b) the person who is supposed to learn can do so even though he or she has been objectified, which is even rarer.How then is one to learn from “mistakes” -- so that they are not repeated?First, one has to realize that every conscious action has two components: the making of the decision and the implementation of the decision. This leads to an important question sequence: Was the decision wrong? Or was the decision right, and the implementation poor?Let's begin with the first question in the sequence. What can be learned if the decision itself was wrong?To make any headway here, we must move beyond simply being judgmental: “The good decision should have been....” We do not learn from judging. We learn by analyzing the process by which the wrong decision was made, so that, the next time around, we can follow a better process. Were the right people involved in making the decision? How did they go about deciding? Was there a constructive exchange of ideas before the decision was finalized? Was all the pertinent information considered? Were both the pros and cons of any alternative decision correctly valued?The questions you just read are only a representative sample of the questions we must use to analyze the process by which the decision was made, but they will serve to give you a sense of the kind of analysis I am talking about.Now let's move on to the second question in the sequence. Let's assume the decision was the appropriate one, and it is the implementation that needs reviewing.In this, case, we should consider a different set of issues if we are to analyze and learn from the mistake. For instance: Which member of the team, if any, did not do what he or she was supposed to do? Why not? Was the timing off? Was the intensity of the task of implementation simply too high for the people responsible? Or, conversely, was the task perceived as too easy, and thus overlooked or minimized in importance?It is imperative, in my view, to differentiate between errors on decision-making and errors in implementation. They have totally different causes, and yield different lessons.But what is the lesson to be learned if the analysis shows the decision was done well and the implementation was impeccable?The lesson here is of humility: that we are not in control of all variables that impact our life. In spite of doing our best, not everything works the way we want it to work. In this case, one learns to accept ones limitations. We have to learn to surrender our ego, a lesson that it seems needs to be learned over and over throughout our life.Sincerely,Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes

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Dr. Ichak Adizes