We all have goals. People and businesses—and even entire industries—make plans to achieve these goals. And one big key to making sure these plans lead us to our goals is regular analysis and tweaking of the plan. However, with all of this analysis, some plans—and their goals—become forever linked with high failure rates.
We are all familiar with many of these ventures that result in high failure rates, others may surprise us. At some point we have all heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce. And that’s just first marriages. Statistics place the failure rate for second marriages at 67% and third marriages at 74%. Ironically, some experts attribute the high rates for second and third marriages ending in divorce on that same big key to ensuring a plans success—analysis. Meaning once a person discovers that they can navigate and manage a divorce they are less scared of going through the process again.

We’ve probably all heard of the nightmare statistics on startup businesses as well. A recent Forbes article summed it up in the title, “90% of Startups Fail,” raising the question, “Why does anyone try and start their own business?”

But there are some high failure rates of which we may not be as aware. According to the Mathematical Association of America, 50% of students don’t pass college algebra with a grade of C or above. And Copernicus Marketing Consulting and Research found that 80-90% of new products or services fail. In his book, “Winning at New Products,” author Robert Cooper estimated that 50% of all resources allocated by U.S. companies to product development went to products that are cancelled or never realize a significant return on investment. Although Cooper recognized that estimates of new product and service failure rates vary by company, category, and other considerations, he pegged “the best-case-scenario” of introducing a successful new product or service at not much better than 50-50.

But doesn’t a 50-50 chance conjure the idea of glass half-empty versus glass half-full? And isn’t all of this just a matter of perspective? Take, for instance, Ted Williams, George Brett or Don Mattingly. All of these men are Hall-of-Fame baseball players, hitters who all carry lifetime batting averages of .300 or better, the benchmark of great hitters. That means that these legends all failed 7 out of 10 times at the plate. While someone who scores a 59% on an Algebra test has failed, the same percentage reached by a quarterback in completed passes would meet with cheers from the fans and, most likely, a win for his team. And let’s keep in mind the subhead of the Forbes article I mentioned above: “Here’s What You Need to Know About the 10%,” a 10% that includes the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and all the other companies that succeeded…and, boy, did they succeed. And that’s why we try and start our own businesses.

In keeping with the big key to ensure a plan’s success, check out how the quality industry is doing with the results of this year’s State of the Profession Survey in “How Are We Doing,” in this month’s Quality. 

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!