What to do when a team doesn't reach its goals

Post by Capsim
April 1, 2015

There are few feelings worse than failing to meet a goal, and in a professional setting, a failure can have a wide range of implications. While everyone suffers a loss now and then, a business can only stay healthy if the majority of its goals are achieved. Of course, without risk, there’s no reward, but this means that each failure should in many ways still be beneficial. Businesses have the opportunity to learn from their failures, make the necessary adjustments and then move forward with a better chance of reaching their expectations. For this to happen, though, how you react in the face of failure is critical.

“Debriefing is an opportunity to analyze mistakes which led to failure.”


In the wake of failure, a team’s natural reaction may simply be to move on to the next venture or to sulk; however, neither of these courses of action are beneficial in the long term. Debriefing provides a valuable opportunity for teams to assess possible problems in execution. Was the failure caused by one person dropping the ball or more widespread dysfunction? Was the deadline impractical? Were the objectives unclear and nebulous? Was there a lack of planning?

Taking the time to evaluate the stress points of a failure makes it easier to take action on future projects. For example, if meeting deadlines for large goals is a recurring problem, Forbes notes it may be a good idea to break up the project into smaller segments. Yet, if a team doesn’t take time to debrief, identifying this problem may never happen. When debriefing becomes common practice, it can potentially result in a collaborative culture, leading to better team outcomes.

Fill in the gaps

Once you’ve identified why the failure occurred, it becomes exponentially easier to put practical measures in place for remedying issues moving forward. Sadly, goals are often not met because teams aren’t given the tools to succeed. Whether it’s weak leadership or a lack of expertise, if you set a team up for failure that’s most likely what will happen. A work environment that lacks collaboration altogether likely isn’t a good place for teams to thrive.

In such situations, investing in professional development, such as a business assessment tool or peer evaluation, may make all the difference in things going differently next time around. Inc. points out that a fear of failure can be jeopardizing to a team dynamic in particular. Business simulations are an excellent resource in such situations, because teams have the ability to take risks without the same real-world consequences. Simulations train teams not only to collaborate, but also to approach goals more holistically.

Debriefing is an opportunity to analyze any mistakes that led to failure, but not acting on this information does little to change future outcomes. A company that’s simply set in its ways may be more likely to fail solely because it won’t provide the tools to make goals more reachable. In fact, not adapting after a failure can slow innovation and deter collaboration.

Identifying and addressing gaps in skills and leadership can help teams better reach large goals. Identifying and addressing gaps in skills and leadership can help teams better reach large goals.

Implement future strategies for success

Many people have experienced a professional moment when these first two steps are treated as an obligation. However, without follow-through, these processes again have limited value. Improving collaboration and rates of success has to be a continuing goal for a company to excel. Once you’ve identified gaps and worked to fill them, it’s important to develop strategies that will ensure the problems don’t resurface. For example, if a business simulation reveals that a team leader was not prepared for a certain situation, you may have to adjust your internal structure of identifying and training leadership.

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