How Do We Avoid Costly Mistakes?

FASTWhen I talk about FAST Leadership I always talk about why projects fail and how we can use FAST to avoid those failures.

One of the key reasons for failure is often because of a ‘lack of focus‘ which results in the team, department or company doing the wrong job, and when you do the wrong job, it doesn’t matter how well you do it, you are doomed to fail.

The latest incident which highlights this perfectly is the French Rail debacle, where French state owned railway firm orders 2,000 trains which are “too wide” for the platforms.

French Train

Unbelievable, but true, they have built the trains that are too wide, such that they cannot currently be used in 1300 or the 8,700 railway stations.

The engineers at the French railway network forgot to go and measure the actual distance between tracks and platforms.

In many of the stations the problem is just a matter of a few centimetres, but even so, too wide is too wide, even if it’s just a millimetre.

Fixing this problem, by updating the stations, is going to cost in the region of 50m Euros, with some estimating that the eventual costs could actually be as high as 100m Euro’s when the work is finally completed.

It doesn’t matter how well you build the trains if they are too big, and consequently not fit for purpose, you have failed.

You have delivered the wrong thing. You were doing the wrong job!

Focus is all about having clear picture of success, understanding what’s needed in order to achieve our goal.  Having the trains able to operate in all stations clearly needs to be part of the vision for success.

Another one of the key reasons for failure is  a ‘lack of Accountability’, and Accountability is about who does the job, the what, and do they have the right skills, do they have the right expectations, do they know clearly what their role and responsibility is.

Missing accountability was also a factor in this failure, which resulted again in the wrong job being done. This was because of wrong assumptions that were made, about who was responsible for what.

Part of the problem stems back to the separation of the rail organisation into two different companies, the Train Operator who is responsible for the trains, and the Rail Operator who is responsible for the network and the stations.

The Train Operator has admitted failing to verify measurements it was given by the Rail Operator before ordering the new trains.

They probably just assumed that it was the job of the Rail Operator to provide accurate data and therefore no need to check it.

And obviously the Rail Operator probably expected the data to be validated before the start of the ordering and build of 2000 new trains.

This lack of clear roles and responsibilities, and assumptions about who would do what, compounded the problem.

By using FAST Leadership they would have had a much better Focus and much clearer Accountability that would have prevented this problem from occurring.

That would have saved them the additional 50-100m Euros in cost; the reputation of the French rail companies; also the careers of the leaders; and would have allowed them to celebrate a tremendous success.

Gordon Tredgold

#Leadership Principles