4 Questions When A Project Goes South

When something doesn’t work out, what do you do?
 
Bitch, moan, wail, cry, complain, sleep, suck your thumb, get revenge….?
 
How about figuring out what went wrong? So, like, you make sure it doesn’t happen again? Crawl out from under your desk…. come on now, it’s okay… I know. It hurts to look.
 
When something does go wrong, whatever it is…. a show, a launch, a line… ask yourself these questions:
 
Any Act of God type stuff at work? 
Was there something truly beyond your or anyone’s control that contributed to the outcome?
 
Weather… not a lot of shopping happens during thunderstorms. Or hurricanes.
 
Crowd actions… I was at a show recently smack dab at the center of a protest march. That place emptied out faster than an office building at happy hour.
 
Transit issues… if the airports closed, no ones coming.
 
When powers beyond your control muddle with your plans, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. 
 
Was this the right time/venue/idea/audience? 
Tricky question.
 
Are you selling a price point above what this crowd is buying? Or below?
 
You obviously wouldn’t try to sell custom wedding gowns at a flea market, or bottle cap jewelry at JCK. But there’s lots of gray area in between.
 
Was there a mismatch between product, venue and customer?
 
Did you pick the venue because you liked it, or because your clients like it? 
 
Do you need to revisit your client avatar, your targeting, your assumptions about your market?
 
Did I really want this? 
Oh now this one’s hard, Gotta be honest here because ambivalence has shot more projects (and businesses…) in the butt than probably anything else. Somehow the Universe just knows when you don’t really want it. And it delivers.
 
Sit on a rock, stare into the water for a while, and figure out if maybe you had a little self-sabotage going on.
 
It’s going to hurt if the answer is yes, but find out now where your true North is before your do this to yourself again.
 
Did I do the work?
Yeah, I know you hate this question. But, did you? Or did you skip a step (or three) hoping no one would notice, and that maybe all those little things weren’t such a big deal after all? Guess what? They were.
 
There’s an old saying. Man plans. God laughs. Whether this was designed to make us feel better about some ultimate lack of responsibility on our part, or to free us when things truly beyond our control rip the steering wheel from our grip… who knows.
 
But the bottom line is that sometimes, as Jean-Luc Picard famously said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”
 
It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.
That is not a weakness; that is life.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you don’t love the journey as much as the destination, go sit on that rock a little longer. 
 
Dissection of a failure is one of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have. Each failure is an opportunity for growth – grab them and learn, whether there was in fact a mistake committed or not. If there wasn’t… Let it go.
 
If there was… Figure it out so you don’t do it out so you don’t repeat the mistake. No one wants to waste time or money on another bad show, project or launch.
 
If you don’t learn from history….

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