Every day, an event occurs in your business that falls short of expectations. Whether it was a missed deadline, a failed deal, a frustrated customer or even a small tiny bug in your latest release to production.

As human beings, we are pre-programmed to look past these seemingly small suboptimal outcomes and forge ahead.

We’re accustomed to keep doing, we’re creatures of habit, and unless something huge happens to stop us on our tracks, we’re by and large going to continue to do what we do and keep ignoring these suboptimal outcomes.

Why Suboptimal Outcomes can Kill your Business

I learned in my previous job, in fact I was trained rigorously, to always be cognizant about the fact that a suboptimal outcome is not just a small bad outcome.

A suboptimal outcome is usually the type of thing that is indicative of a LOT of things that can be wrong about your business.

And so, as our team grows, as we take on bigger things, as we go into uncharted territories, I’ve started to see and notice more and more of these little suboptimal outcomes — and it scares me.

What are the suboptimal outcomes going on in your business? How do these seemingly small occurrences connect to bigger patterns/trends that may be happening in your business?

I’m realizing today that I can’t answer these two questions and I’m going to do something about that.

How we are tracking Suboptimal Outcomes

Starting next week, I’m planning on introducing a new “tool” that I learned about at my previous job.

It’s a simple, centralized, logbook where every single suboptimal outcome that happens in our business is going to be written down with some key pieces of meta-data (by all employees):

  1. What was the suboptimal outcome?
  2. Who was responsible for this outcome?
  3. When did it happen?
  4. Why did it happen? — this will be filled out later with all the team members in a room when the suboptimal outcome is diagnosed.

Note: These are four high level questions, but if you really dig deeply into each of these questions, you’ll see that entire blog entries can be written dedicated to thinking about how to ask and answer and think through each of these questions.