What Is Going Right?

by seanlow on March 8, 2011

This is the time of year that most creative businesses are starting to get busy.  Vicente Wolf famously travels the world each year from December to February because nothing really starts to move in the interior design world until March.  Same with those in or supporting the event business.  Sure, there are exceptions, but, for the most part creative business is seasonal and focused heavily in the Spring, early Summer and Fall.

The natural instinct as you go through your first wave of projects is to “debrief” and focus on what went wrong.  You feel good about addressing the issues – client and internal (mis)communications, vendor problems, delivery, etc.  You make sure you will not make the same mistakes again.  And maybe you will not.  Except you will have made a series of long-term decisions based on a short-term issues/crises.  The result: you will “fix the problem”, but there will be others the next time.  Fix those and there will be others the time after that.  You will probably wind up feeling like you are constantly playing a giant game of Whac-A-Mole.

Instead, why not focus on what is going right?  Make a list of 10 things you and your team did well and 2 things where you screwed the proverbial pooch.  Then review the list of 10 right things first.  Indulge the positive – praise yourself and your team.  That is just good energy.  But then ask what you can do to accentuate what went right.  For instance, if the success of the project was due to your or a member of your staff’s crazy organization skills, what can you do to support those efforts and pare away those responsibilities that do not.  Is it important that this person writes proposals or can she take over once everything is set?  How can you make that a reality for the business?

No matter what, write it down.  You will be able to see with your own eyes what can make you better.  Use the moment to inform how to make your process better.  Then you can strike while the iron is cool to strengthen your strengths.  That could be a week after the project is complete, a month or even three months.  What you will find is that as you embrace and encourage your strengths, they will overwhelm and likely remedy your weaknesses.  Moreover, acknowledging and feeding all you do well can only serve to highlight what it is you most stand for.  And, after all, that is what your clients pay for above all.

As for the screw-ups on the list, don’t ignore them.  They will not go away.  Just put them behind what went right and then ask yourself the question – if we support “x” that went right, what happens to the screw up?  For example, if you are a florist and you were late with your delivery, do you increase staff to make sure it will not happen again or do you focus on finalizing the incredible design earlier?  Focusing on fixing the problem draws resources to production when the client loved design above all else.  Supporting design allows better information to flow to production, giving them a better chance to get it right.  What if delivery was fine, but the look was not great.  Client loves the little details.  Fix design or let production take over earlier?

Some problems need to be addressed and fixed no doubt.  But they are few and far between.  More often than not, the answer is in what is going right.


1 Donnie Bell Design March 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I passed this along to the big man. You’re right, things are about to kick into high gear until about November.

2 Amy Marella March 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

awesome post….it’s hard to focus on the positive so it’s a good to be reminded. I’m writing the list!

3 Sofia Negron March 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

You always say things at the most timeliest of times. I so needed this shot in the arm. It truly is when you can look over the entire project and see what is going right that you can figure out how to fix things. It may also give you much more incentive and encouragement to fix those things than to focus on the bad and just give up because it’s “hopelessly wrong”

4 William May 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Thank You.,
I am happy to hear that i am not the only person who chooses to think that way….
: )

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