We are all used to analysing our mistakes, both professionally and personally. What went wrong and when so that we can learn and not make the same errors again. But two professors from Harvard Business School argue that learning from success also has a part to play if organisations wish to develop.

Francesca Gino, associate professor of business administration and Gary Pisano, professor of business administration looked at businesses in various sectors. Many factors they say may contribute to success independent of a product’s quality or decisions by management. For example, random events such as a stroke of good luck or external factors completely outside the control of the organisation.

“Success can make us believe that we are better decision makers than we actually are,” say the academics. As a consequence companies do not put the same effort into analysing what went right as they do when discovering where they failed.

“Success is commonly interpreted as evidence not only that your existing strategy and practices work, but also that you have all the knowledge and information you need,” they say.

The pair suggest that organisations institute certain procedures such as reviewing the reasons for the success with the same rigour that they would do if the product or strategy had failed. In that way they say, organisations can learn from their successes as well as their failures.

The article is published in the April edition of the Harvard Business Review.

● With many government bodies worldwide facing cuts in expenditure whilst at the same time trying to maintain services, retaining the support of employees is crucial.

Academics from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario says that when managers are faced with substantial change their actions often undermine the enthusiasm of their employees - the very people they depend on to ensure the changes go through smoothly. Co-authors Gerard Seijts associate professor of organisational behaviour and PhD candidate Michael Roberts examined permanent full-time and part-time government employees in Ontario, Canada.

The writers say that leaders who do not build sufficient support among their employees risk creating low morale and negative emotions.

The pair say that change will be more successful if the employees feel that they are “part of the process of change”. To do this senior managers should make every effort to build enthusiasm for the changes among employees, which will in turn ensure that any changes are implemented more smoothly and successfully.

The Impact of Employee Perceptions on Change in a Municipal Government” is published in vol 32, issue 2 of the Leadership and Organization Development Journal.

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