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How to Handle Failure


navigate in the page--What To Do

If something is not working or is headed for an impasse, don't give up hope. Recognize what has been accomplished and what did work.

(This may not be what you set out to do, but it may still be apartial success).

When something goes wrong:

  • Respond quickly.


  • Be realistic recognize when something isn't working.


  • Recognize that you may have to go back to the drawing board only now you have more knowledge to deal with the problem.


  • If you can't fix the problem, end the process as quickly as possible both politically and technically.


  • Examine why something hasn't worked (figuring this out counts as a success).


Apply the lessons you've gained to other projects.

What may in the short run appear to be a failure may in the long run simply be a turning point in the process.

Analyze what happened--maybe you can avoid some problems in the future. Also, can you agree on and address one part of the problem? A partial solution can often help build the credibility, cooperation, and support needed to solve the rest of the problem. Learn from the experience and build on it. Failures should be used as a guide toward successes.


navigate in the page--Go On

Process Tour spiralling forward Monitor and Adapt <------->Handling Success 

Helpful Hints Tourwizbang help here Avoiding Failure <------> Hurdles Chart


GeneralResults of the Decision Process

PreviousHandling Success

NextBowing Out of the Process




Note: These files were developed and were originally hosted at the Bureau of Reclamation, United States Department of the Interior.
I am hosting this as an archive. Contact Deena Larsen (deenalarsen AT for further information.