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Made A Mistake? 15 Strategies For Analyzing What Went Wrong


Failure is inevitable during any business journey. However, it’s not the fact that an entrepreneur failed that matters; it’s what they do afterward that counts.

To make the most out of their experiences, entrepreneurs should consider what went wrong and learn from the situation. Below, 15 members of Forbes Business Council explained some of the best ways to approach analyzing what went wrong after a business makes a mistake.

1. Identify Failure Early On

Bring value to the failure by making it a valuable education. Examine and thereby improve the process used to decide originally it would work. Ask why did you not identify the failure early on. Could the failure offer you insight into a different approach or business that would work? Keep on trying! As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is failure after failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – David Greenblatt, Albert Scott

2. Test And Challenge KPIs

We are responsible for our attitude and actions. Teams should be encouraged to test and challenge the key performance indicators and efforts made to achieve these. Where are targets achievable, realistic and timebound? Was enough leadership focus placed on the projections task? Often teams will agree on a project, but think it will fail—and the right attitude encourages learning through testing. – David Price, Employsure

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3. Use Failure As A Chance To Learn

The best way to approach analyzing failure is to use all failure as an opportunity to learn. Investigate to understand the nature of the failure. Then, determine where it lies on the scale from preventable to intelligent. Failures that are preventable expose opportunities for improvement. Failures that fall close to or within the intelligent category are good failures. – Dedrick Boyd, TechSparq, Inc.

4. Understand What You Can Do Differently Next Time

When a business fails to achieve a goal, leaders often see “red.” Understanding what happened and what you will do differently requires you not only see red, but lead R.E.D. or refrain, examine and document. Refrain from assumptions or blame, examine data and team input and document lessons and what you will do differently. Remember business is like a traffic signal; have patience because it will turn. – Nyla Beth Gawel, SAIC

5. Focus On Your Company’s Core Values

Remaining focused on the core values of your company allows teams to fix and grow from any mistakes. Communication and collaboration are key, both in times of success as well as in times when things haven’t gone to plan. Trying and sometimes making mistakes is better than not ever attempting a task. – Kushal Nahata, FarEye

6. Stay Calm

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Depending on the degree of the error, it is important to stay calm and really take the time to do a comprehensive analysis of why it happened, which employees were involved and what kind of error it was. It is then important to talk to everyone involved. We have our own policy that when mistakes are made, we call a large meeting and talk openly about everything without attacking anyone. – Tim Maier, Brand Boosting GmbH

7. Analyze How Things Were Planned

My firm belief is that failures in business happen when no proper, long-term planning is done in advance. If you imagine driving a car at 120 miles per hour, you’ll want to know what your next turn is. In fact, you want to have a precise navigation system to get you where you want. So when your business fails at something, analyze how things unfolded in time and if they were planned with diligence and farsightedness. – Tytus Gołas, Tidio

8. Replace ‘Failures’ With ‘Learnings’

As a serial entrepreneur, startup investor and UC Berkeley faculty who teaches the art of entrepreneurship, the advice I share with entrepreneurs to move on is to replace the word “failure” with “learnings.” Entrepreneurs do not fail when moving on; they learn. Looking present-forward often does not make sense, but entrepreneurs develop the ability to picture learnings future-back. – Tommaso Di Bartolo, Upland | NFT Metaverse Strategy for Businesses

9. Organize A Postmortem

We organize a retro or postmortem with everyone involved when a project ends. The person in charge holds a presentation summarizing the project and presenting the results. We use a model called “the three L’s”—liked, learned, lacked—to analyze the outcome. Participants write what they liked, learned or lacked on sticky notes. By the end, we have a list of lessons drawn up and we’re all aligned. – Xenia Muntean, Planable

10. Involve An ‘Independent’ Voice

This needs to be a process absent of emotions and that’s really hard to do. I’ve found that having someone in the review meeting(s) who had nothing to do with the project serving as the “independent” voice in the room is helpful. That has paid dividends in avoiding fingers being pointed! – Brian Fugere, symplr

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11. Look To Leadership

Did they adequately understand their market and have the resources to successfully penetrate it? Did they understand the broader market scape that they were entering, including competitors, pricing models and buyer preferences? Did the leadership team recruit and train the right people to be successful? If leadership fails at answering any of these questions, the company will likely fail as well. – John Moore, Chilmark Research

12. Reflect On What You Will Do Differently

It’s only human to consider giving up in the face of fear. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been afraid of not reaching a goal, not making enough to keep the company afloat, being a failure and contemplated giving up on something at some point. It seems like an easy solution when things get tough. Reflecting on what you will do differently next time is a critical part of the learning process. – David Ciccarelli, Voices

13. Celebrate Failure As A Pathway To Success

Failure is to be reviewed and sometimes even celebrated as it lays the pathway to success. As a business owner, I have experienced failure or setbacks too many times. More often than not, with deep introspection and analysis of the situation, I reworked either the strategy used or revisited the implementation steps. At times, I even changed the entire business model and the goal. – Kokila Alagh, KARM Legal Consultants

14. Set Emotions Aside

When something fails, the first and most important thing is to set all emotions aside, taking a moment to separate personal views and beliefs of what went wrong from the hard facts that led to that situation. Any type of business is run by human beings and as such, our emotions tend to get in the way of going through an objective analysis of stressful situations. Be mindful of this. – Omar Yunes, 54D

15. Take Space From The Failure

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I was recently involved in an unsuccessful business and I’ve spent nights and nights trying to dissect what went wrong. I find the following procedure best: Take a bit of time off to get distance from the failure, write down the business plan again assuming you were redoing the business and talk to someone who had a successful venture in the same space to check that your analysis is correct. – Louise Hendon, Doggie Karma



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