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Failing forward in action

"Our staff have a need to share failures without outside consultation. It's encouraging to know we want to lead the process ourselves".

Seattle Government Employee

Top barriers to Failing Forward

  • Lack of a framework for determining what constitutes success and failure in a particular project or process

  • Changes to organizational structure have decreased motivation for the team to be innovative

  • Fear of backlash from residents and the media leads to an aversion to taking risks

  • Teams have little transparency into the end impact of their work which makes it hard to access performance

Top ideas to embrace Failing Forward

  • Create 'Pivot Parties' to identify opportunities for improvement and adjust struggling initiatives

  • Identify and share inspiring resident stories to demonstrate the impact of the Department's work

  • Build psychological safety by encouraging 'fun' failure-specific break-out activities during meetings

  • Bring failure out of the shadows by using public meetings to engage with residents in a dialogue on success and failures

How to Fail (Forward)

A framework for fostering innovation in the public sector.

Drawing on our experience working with six local governments, we first investigate why it is so difficult for those in local government to learn from failures. Second, we consider what department leaders can do to build the conditions in which they and their teams can fail forward.

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