7 Steps Ahead, LLC

Organizational Psychology for Managers
sold out at Amazon.com two days after it was released! Fortunately, more copies are now available. Click here to order. For excerpts, click here. To read a review of the book, click here.

Are you hearing the hoof beats of the four horsemen of business failure?

How can you make sure you're in the right place at the right time?

When is efficiency ruining your productivity?

What does it take for a team to consistently use its strengths instead of its weaknesses?

Just how different are leaders and managers really?

Despite the old claim about frogs sitting in water until it boils, they actually are smart enough to jump out. Why don't people do the same?

Why is it so hard to deal with Jerks in the office?

If there's no "I" in team, how does the team see where it's going?

Here's what Bank of America has to say about how leaders impact high performance teams.

What can you do when you feel you don't fit into a new organizational culture?

Some comments from my recent talk on Making Change Work at the Computer Measurement Group International Conference in Las Vegas.

Trying to build a creative, innovative culture? Check out this short article from Investors Business Daily.

Job feeling stressful? Here's how to relax at work.

If you want a motivated workforce, check out this article from Fox Business.

Learn the secrets of Mastering Your Schedule on Time Tamer Talk Radio.

"The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development" was listed by Amazon.com as one of the top 100 books on organizational behavior.



Publications and Announcements

Click here for the full list of publications

Are You Speaking to Me?
in Corp! Magazine

When the Solution is the Problem
in Corp! Magazine

The Paradox of Perfection
American Business Magazine

Flawed Execution? Don't Lose Your Head Over It
in Corp! Magazine

The Destroyer of Cultures
at ERE.Net

Help Star Performers Ramp Up The Whole Team
in Corp! Magazine

The Secret to Productive Staff Meetings   

in Medical Office Today 

 Don't Let Dracula Decisions Roam Your Business  

in Corp! Magazine 

The Blame of Phobos Grunt  

in Corp! Magazine 


 The Four Horsemen of Business Failure  

in MeasureIT

Of Cats and Unwanted Prizes 

in Corp! Magazine

Who Betrays One Master 

in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership


My Hovercraft is Full of Eels
in Corp! Magazine


Using the Force: What Every Exec Can Learn From Darth Vader
in the Worcester Business Journal

"Balance the Individual and the Team for Top Performance"
in Corp! Magazine

"Real Science Fiction"
in Corp! Magazine

"Shaky Ground"
in Lab Manager Magazine

Zen and the Art of Leadership
Talk presented at Infotec 2010

Recent Interviews

Tell About Mistakes and Failed Projects
in Investors Business Daily

A Bad Work Environment Can Make You Sick
on CareerBliss

How Much Does Motivation Matter? 

  in CSI International


Profiting from Your Performance Review  

in NASDAQ Careers News


 Motivating Small Business Employees to Work As Hard As You  

in the Phonebooth


 Relax at Work? Ha! 

in the Jewish Exponent


The Mobility Morass  

in Specialty Fabrics Review


HR Mistake of the Week: Why Hiring for Emotional Intelligence Gets You a BFF Instead of a Star Employee
in The Grindstone

Using Games to Build Your Team
on the Talking Work Podcast

How to Use Sports to Advance Leadership and Organizational Development
on the Full Potential Show with James Rick

Hiring Mistakes
with Todd Raphael,
Editor, Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership

Organizational Development on
The David Lush Show, WNIX 1330 AM

Innovation and Corporate Culture
on KKZZ Brainstormin' with Bill Frank

The Startup Business Coach

The CEO and Organizational Development


How to Motivate Your Employees
on Fox Business

Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Move
in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Art of Branding Your Career 

in Psychology Today

Prepping for Your Annual Review

in the NY Times


Making Pay Decisions Transparent 

in Human Resource Executive


Don't Like Your Job? Define One You Like 

in IT World


Computer Measurement Group Announces Keynote and Plenary Speakers for CMG'11 Taking Place December 5-9, 2011 at Gaylord National Hotel in D.C. Area  


 Career Focus: Engineering Management in Today's Engineer, a publication of the IEEE



4 Ways to Log Off on Time Off 


 About Creating Visions and Organizational Goals 


Researchers Find 'The Paradox of Meritocracy' 

in Human Resource Executive 


Game Changer 

in SHRM India


How to Stay Motivated on the Road to ITIL Expert  

in ITSM Watch


To Be a Leader, You Must Be a Follower 

in Oregon Business


 Incentivizing Employees
in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals

Tips for Making, Keeping Business Resolutions
at Fox Small Business

The Evolution of Leadership

Getting Results: Performance vs. Putting in the Hours

How to Self-Promote Without Being Obnoxious
on CNN

Hiring Headaches
in the IndUS Business Journal

Identifying Your Future Leaders
in IndustryWeek Magazine

Natural Born Project Managers: Myth or Reality at Project Manager Planet


How to Survive a Bad Team Leader
at Yahoo! Careers

Books and CDs

Contact Us

 To Succeed, Plan to Fail


I'm getting tired of hearing people say, "Oh I get it. We didn't plan to fail, we failed to plan."


When I'm working with a business to help them understand why their process is failing or their projects are off course, sooner or later someone comes out with this little gem. At that point, everyone nods sagely as though they've actually solved something. They are missing the point. If that was all that was wrong, they wouldn't need help.


Sure, it's certainly true that if you fail to plan, you're far more likely to fail, but knowing that doesn't actually address the real problem: they are taking the "failure is not an option" mindset. This is a fantastic line in a movie, but has some problems in reality.


When we take the mindset that failure is something that cannot be accepted, we are implicitly stating that failure is a terrible thing, something so terrible that we cannot even consider it. It's an attitude similar to that taken by many martial artists, who teach their students that they must never allow themselves to be taken off balance. All their training is then based on the idea of never being off balance. As a result, when they are off balance, they freeze.


A youthful student once watched Morehei Uyeshiba, the founder of Aikido, sparring with a much younger, stronger opponent. After Uyeshiba defeated the guy, the young student said to him, "Master, that was amazing. You never lose your balance!"


Uyeshiba's reply: "You are mistaken. I frequently lose my balance. My secret is that I know how to regain it quickly."


Uyeshiba recognized that loss of balance is a normal part of any fight. By training to rapidly regain his balance, he stripped the experience of its emotional content. It was merely something that happened, and something which he well knew how to recover from. As a result, not only were his opponents unable to capitalize on taking him off balance, when he took their balance, they didn't know what to do.

Failure is the same. When failure becomes something we fear, it can cause us to freeze. At one company, the first hiccup in a string of successes led to panic by the CEO. He wasn't used to failing, and he didn't know what to do about it.


The problem is that fear of failure causes us to avoid risk and not experiment with new ideas. When something goes wrong, as it inevitably will, we figuratively lose our balance and become momentarily stuck. If we think that failure means something terrible will happen, we opt for the safe course. Unfortunately, the safe course is often not the best course or the wisest course. It's merely the one that minimizes the short-term risk to us, potentially at the cost of long-term risk to the team. That, of course, is just fine: if the entire team fails, no one is to blame.


Conversely, when we accept that along the route to success there will be many failures along the way, and when we practice viewing failures as a form of feedback, the negative emotional component of failure is eliminated. Instead, we simply have information: something we attempted did not work the way we expected. What does that mean? What is that telling us about our plan? About our process? About the competitive landscape?


Failure is a way of calibrating our efforts and focusing our energy. Particularly early in a project, small failures are, or should be, common. The less defined the project, the more exploration needs to occur in order to adequately and accurately define the milestones. Indeed, early milestones are best thought of as little more than wishful thinking: opportunities to put stakes in the ground and see what happens when we get there. It's the chance to see how well the team members are working together, how effective the leader is being, how effectively the team can make decisions and implement a course of action.


When we fear failure, the fear itself is often more damaging than the failure! The key to succeeding at large, important projects is to recognize that failures will happen along the way. By accepting the information that failure gives us and cultivating the mindset that failures are recoverable and useful, failure truly does make us more, not less, likely to succeed.


This article is drawn from,"Organizational Psychology for Managers."






Like to dramatically improve performance in your organization? Contact us for a free initial consultation.  


Stephen R Balzac

About 7 Steps Ahead 
Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is a consultant, author, professional speaker, and president of 7 Steps Ahead, specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and transform problems into opportunities.

Steve has over twenty years of experience in the high tech industry and is the former Director of Operations for Silicon Genetics, in Redwood City, CA.

Steve is the author of The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, published by McGraw-Hill and a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play. Steve's latest book, "Organizational Psychology for Managers," was released by Springer in the fall of 2013. He writes the monthly business column, "Balzac on Business."

He is the president of the Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) and served as a member of the board of the New England Society for Applied Psychology. No stranger to the challenges of achieving peak performance under competitive and stressful conditions, he holds a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and is a former nationally ranked competitive fencer.