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Within any living organism, certain systems need to exist cohesively and function properly for homeostasis, survival and the need to reproduce — and businesses are no different. Except for businesses, survival is the bare minimum, and “reproducing” is the mission. So the question becomes, “How do you get a company to thrive?”
The only ways to successfully execute a strategy are to avoid problems with a clear understanding of potential catastrophic failures from the start, as well as create a plan to mitigate or beat them. In this way, the opposite of success is not failure — the opposite of failure is responsible clarity, but no single person is for success. And no single person is responsible for failure. Attaining clarity across your entire organization is key and it may not be as hard as you think. By using this method, which I call the “beat failure” method, you allow everyone to have a seat, a voice and value at the table.
Related: Why Overcoming Failure Is the First Step Toward Success
How to “beat failure”
Instead of focusing on achieving success, turn your attention to identifying and accounting for failure points that might come up along the way. When people at the top develop a strategy to get from point A to point B and merely send down the order to everyone else who will contribute to that strategy, the path to success ends up riddled with unidentified potential failure points. There are always those who have been toiling with an idea or strategy for six months, and when it is delivered, they often give everyone six minutes to understand it (metaphorically, of course).
If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know what this is like. It leads to a surprise — and not a good one. In business, these kinds of surprises are bad, so let’s eliminate them. On the other hand, addressing these failure points ahead of time and creating a plan to prevent them from happening is the key to achieving any goal. It also invites people into the conversation rather than throwing an idea or plan over the fence to ask for feedback. Openly addressing all the failure points that could go wrong gets you closer to the desired outcome than just blindly trying to execute a strategy focused only on the end goal. We naturally will hear an idea, and our brains start to look at all the things that are unknown, wrong or those that will change. This can register in the brain as stress and can be overwhelming.
In whatever initiative, large or small, total transformation, launching a new product, or changing your entire strategy, narrow the margins of error by asking everyone involved where they think problems could arise. In other words, what would make this fail, you fail, us fail? These observations become a table of contents to shape the plan and strategy to achieve your goal.
For each failure point, discuss and define it. Then, identify any dependencies and what you would need to know and have in response to the problem popping up. Finally, assign the task to a person or a person who leads a team who would be responsible for preventing the failure point from happening. It would then be up to them to prevent this from happening with a clear picture of the dependencies and additional support that is needed. Although they may not single-handedly prevent it, they are responsible for getting all the components together necessary to prevent it.
Related: Your Employees Want to Be Heard — Listen to the Details That Matter
Most organizational problems stem from a lack of clarity and cause internal drama, misalignment, unclear roles, surprises or accountability issues, all of which can easily derail even the best-laid plans. In other words, lack of clarity breeds drama. The strength of your company culture is correlated directly with how much clarity there is in your organization.
A company gets where it’s going not because of its strategy, but because of its people, but for people to do their best work, they need clarity. When each team member interrogates the strategy, everyone moves forward with confidence knowing exactly how and what they need to execute their individual task, as well as how it contributes to overall success.
The key component of the “beat failure” method is its “clarity sessions,” used to evaluate any initiative you undertake by asking your team what could make it fail — for the company or for themselves as employees. Rank each failure point based on the likelihood of it happening and the degree to which it would impact the company. Then, work from the highest-ranked and most severe areas down, developing a plan for each failure point and assigning one person to prevent it. This creates a strategy where everyone contributes to making a goal happen and knows their marching order towards success.
Related: The Best Employees Display These 6 Characteristics
Take a seat at the table
With this method, everyone has a seat at the table. People who feel welcome to discuss what they see as potential failure points with their managers and coworkers feel their contributions and value, making it easier to believe in what they’re doing. Being upfront about the possibility of failure lets you establish the clear roles needed to overcome it, giving employees a greater sense of purpose and making them more likely to stay on your team.
The “beat failure” method should be the procedure for everything, from daily meetings to yearly planning and performance reviews. After a clarity session, the whole team knows the strategy and its priorities, and each person is responsible for preventing specific problems along the way. They know the big-picture importance of their individual assignments, how those contributions support the company’s goals and are rewarded for those accomplishments.
Start with one meeting like this and within an hour, you’ll have more clarity than ever and the most significant meeting of your entire career. But, more importantly, you will have a clear action plan to achieve your company goals.