The Power to Fail Small
As risk managers we need to have the ambition to push for change in organizations — no small thing — and yet have the appetite and the constitution to “fail small” in getting there. Let me explain what I mean.
Over the years, I’ve had ideas that I thought would have an impact within workers’ compensation programs. I’ve been fortunate to be able to establish and continuously improve three employer-based programs.
Having started my career in case management, I worked with many employees of various employers and saw the differences that a strong employer program could have on the outcome of their recovery process.
I always saw my role as that of a tight rope walker: To stay on the rope (the Workers’ Compensation Act) without skewing too far to either the right or left while keeping balance (e.g. guided by ethics and morals).
In a previous Risk Insider post, I talked about of my philosophy of Firm, Fair and Friendly. This tight-rope walker act falls into the same realm. When given the opportunity to create programs, I want to use my experience to get creative. But innovation and creation can be a hard “sell” when measuring the return on the investment.
I’ve got an MBA and a counseling degree, which sometimes feel like they are pulling me in different directions. How to provide the best services while maintaining empathy and also meet financial goals is a real challenge.
My dual training opens me up to some interesting internal discussions. But in terms of claims management, with its current focus on an advocacy-based approach, those dual qualifications are coming in handy.
As risk professionals, we look at the risk and look for ways to mitigate it. If we mitigate all risk, how do we grow and improve, not only our programs but personally? We trial, we fail and we improve the idea.
Creation, change and innovation are hard and frightening. Sometimes it is about measuring the risk and reward. If I try this, what could be the outcome? If I fail, what is the risk? What kind of risk is it? Is the risk to me, the company, the injured worker or financial/legal exposure?
As risk professionals, we look at the risk and look for ways to mitigate it. If we mitigate all risk, how do we grow and improve, not only our programs but personally? We run a trial, we fail and then we improve the idea.
Something I learned in the past year is to give yourself permission to “fail small.” Take big ideas and big changes and create small pilot programs, while continuously improving the process. This allows for small failures to level the path to success.
This approach also provides a baseline for the return on investment. What works in one setting might not work in another; the same is true for different results in different industries.
Figuring out if nurse triage, video physicians or physical therapy or information packets will work in a current situation may require a small trial. If it is successful — great, if it requires tweaking — great, if it fails — not great but still beneficial!
Knowing what is not going to offer employee satisfaction and/or financial return is just as important as knowing what produces progress. Merely knowing you can fail small and survive is very empowering and freeing.
Each success overshadows the failures. We learn, grow and shine brightest when we feel successful.
So, as we move through 2018, give yourself permission to fail small. Reach out…improve…change…create…expand…have courage; as without the failure there is no improvement.