Getting it Right When it all Goes Wrong

Sometimes it all goes wrong, there is a calamity, a disaster or a screw up.

Shit happens.

There is only one sensible response when it all goes a bit Pete Tong; understand why and then do something to stop it happening again — it works even better when done quickly.

This is not a revelation.

My father explained it to me 40 years ago

There is no point in getting old if you don’t get wise ~ Bob Lawther

Fortunately there is a foolproof way of finding out what happened and fixing it.

We all know it but we constantly ignore it.

The right way:

Go, look and ask some questions.  Make sure they are open, fair, non accusatory questions.  Questions like:

  • Do we know where the problem occurred?
  • What happened differently this time?
  • Do we know what caused the problem?
  • What could we do to stop that from happening again?

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems with the right way.  It is slow, measured, dull, and — most regrettably — all this “we” business implies guilt.

We much prefer the wrong way:

Which is to sit behind your desk and shout questions down the phone, preferably irritable, accusatory questions.  Questions like:

  • Who is accountable?
  • Why did you do it that way?
  • What were you thinking?
  • Have you just fallen out of your tree?
  • Where is your resignation?

We prefer the wrong way, it is easy, requires limited intelligence, is instantly gratifying, gives the illusion of resolving the problem, shows “decisive management” and best of all takes us well away from the firing line.

But the wrong way is very, very wrong

Because the next time shit happens…

Nobody is going to tell you about it…

Until there is far too much of it to hide.

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Shit Happens

Read another opinion

Image by Frank Wuestefeld


  1. Hello James,
    It occurs to me that at some extraordinarily deep level we are wired to rage against loss and those who show up for us as generating that loss.

    Shit happened yesterday morning at 5:20am. My wife had borrowed my car for the day (Thurs) as her’s needed a MOT. I did what I do every day in the early morning. I opened the driver side door, putting the key into the ignition, and turned the key. Suddenly, the car shot forward and SMACKED into the front of the house. It was dark so I could not see the damage and the SMACK told me all that I needed to know.

    Once I got past the shock, every part of my being screamed at the culprit. If hanging was allowed I would have hanged someone. And that someone? Most likely my wife.

    As it was she was sleep and I had something to do. So I got on with doing what needed doing. That gave me a full day to process my loss and get that nothing would be gained by shouting at my wife. Or holding it against her. Instead, I made a mental note not to let my wife borrow-use my car. And I showed by gratitude. How? Being grateful that my car is old and not new!

    The diagnostic? I use my handbrake to brake the car. My wife uses the gears and does not use the handbrake! In the early morning I had not been present to this. So what happened, happened.

    All the best

  2. Hi James,
    I suspect that something just happened that fueled this post. However, I hope that I am wrong.

    Your post reminded me of something Seth Godin wrote a wee while ago about there only being 6 basic emotions: Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.(

    If this list is true then perhaps it is no wonder that we don’t like being wrong as I am sure that it would evoke 4 or 5 of the basic emotions all at once.

    It doesn’t make it right but maybe it goes some way towards explaining why we act the way that we do.


  3. That is a very interesting thought Adrian, thank you


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