Getting IT to Recover From Fear of Failure

BensonMike Benson, CIO of DirecTV, believes in the necessity of IT. He believes IT must not just operate on time and in budget but also to offer competitive advantage for the business, because IT encompasses a truly vital component of the business. Gil Press relates this attitude in an article for Forbes, and what this attitude amounts to is the idea that IT must recover from its fear of failure. To accomplish this, Benson has implemented a process at DirecTV where it is okay for IT to make mistakes, as long as they learn lessons quickly and move on. It takes a page from agile, in that lessons derived from failure are quickly disseminated throughout the organization. In this way, it is especially beneficial to make a lot of fast mistakes, because they will beget a lot of new ways not to make mistakes in the immediate future. Embracing the benefits of failure is especially embodied at DirecTV by four communications and behavior change mechanisms, as noted by Press:

  • A social media platform used as the main communication hub connecting all DirecTV locations
  • A “gamification” portal where badges and points are used to drive behavior
  • Sentiment analysis to understand what’s working and what can be improved
  • A video archive affectionately called “the failure vault”

The business does all of this while still maintaining day-to-day basic operations. How can your IT become so robust? One way DirecTV helps guide IT is by offering “innovacations,” by which small groups are given six weeks to test an innovative idea. But however you choose to do it, the bottom line is that failure, when properly understood and documented, can prove a boon to IT. Have the courage to face it head-on.

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