“I was setup for failure” says the employee as he contemplates going into his exit interview.
“We don’t want you to fail, we don’t set people up for failure” says the manager.
Who is right? Well both are.
Fundamentally companies technically don’t want you to fail at your tasks, to not complete your project on time or on budget, or not succeed in growing your territory. The problem is the unrealistic expectations. The boss doesn’t want you to fail.. They never do. They will say that they have ‘higher expectations’ which is code for a task that’s almost impossible. I take that back, it’s not that the task is almost impossible, it’s that the task is impossible with the resources given and the time frame expected for the task to happen. This is why crunch happens on projects, and crunch generally doesn’t turn out a solid product.
In the classic example from my sales background.. There will be a company selling a commodity product (lots of competition) with minimal training and a company that wants you to sell at a price premium because you are supposed to add value through your service and product knowledge. The problem in this case was that there was no long term and complex training or mentoring program… The companies in question really had more of a throw them against the wall and see what sticks mentality. So no tools + no training + intense competition = “Set up for failure”.
The company manager will say “but I was here, you had engineering, you had XYZ company resource, etc… to help you, all you had to do was call”
Except XYZ resource is in another state and has too much on their plate to spend three months with you. Engineering doesn’t have the exact solution and wants you to push the existing company product vs. the one the client actually needs. Your first call with the client winds up in you losing all credibility because you didn’t inherently know what questions to ask and the client knew more than you did. Finally because your company sells at a price premium your quote is 50% higher than the other guy….
So “Set up for failure” is based upon your perspective.
In the book good to great Jim Collins talks about the flywheel. The idea that it’s a long slow processes to get to amazing results and amazing growth. I think alarm bells should go off if in the interviewing process you hear a generic “3 months to get up to speed” because that is almost code for being set up for failure, but more on that next post.