You know it’s getting bad when your father is still teaching you life lessons 5 years after he died.
One of my father’s phrases was, “It’s in the past. Get over it!” Usually he used it when I was venting about something that had gone wrong. Usually at the top of my voice and in four letter words. However, he often used it when I was making excuses. Now, I always took this phrase to be short form for “Stop your bitchin’.”
But a recent event (the nature of which is irrelevant) has caused me to re-evaluate the meaning. And finally learn something that my father tried to teach me many years ago.
A more accurate translation to my current mind is “Quit yer blabbin’. It’s too late for excuses or complaints. The damage is done. Ya got a problem with it? Fix it! Don’t bitch about it. You’ve got to live with it now. It’s yours. Fix it!”
In the worlds of Project Management and its sister Entrepreneurship, this is a critical phrase. After all, we live in a world of risk and the inevitability of failure.
Too often when we mess up or the people who report to us screw up, we become mired in the past. We look for reasons. We look for excuses. We look for the effect. We look for who to blame.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Reasons are good. Lessons learned are great. But far too often it’s a case of crying in our beer. We aren’t looking to avoid the problem in the future. Or even to fix the present. We’re looking to shift the blame, scream at the “guilty party” — or more correctly, the person we want to believe is guilty — beat our collective chests and scream “Oh woe is me. Poor, poor pitiful me.” In other words, generally just react emotionally and avoid the result.
What we aren’t looking for is to accept responsibility and either solve the issue, fix the result, or avoid the issue in the future. Which is exactly what we should be doing.
What’s in the past is over with. Done. Finito. Kaput. Let it go. If you’re the injured party, holding on to it only causes you to get angry and damages your ability to react going forward. The injuring party probably doesn’t realize they caused a problem and probably won’t care if they knew.
If you’re the injuring party, then it’s too late to prevent it. The damage has been done. Relationships have been irrevocably damaged. Money has been lost. Time wasted. Whatever. It’s too late for excuses. And the injured party really couldn’t care less about your “good reason” for injuring them. All they care about is the damage.
Instead focus on the present and the future. Yes, it helps to know who caused the problem. Just as it helps to know who was injured. After all, they are going to have the best insights into what happened and why. And also how to avoid it in the future. They’re going to be critical to the problem identification and solution. What they aren’t good for is blaming. That does no one any good. It just creates defensive people and a list of excuses. No reasons, just excuses.
Wether you are an entrepreneur or a project manager, instead you need to focus on the present. You need to identify the effects of the mistake. You need to identify what needs to be done to repair the effects. You need to identify what opportunities are opened up as a result of this mistake.
Wether you are an entrepreneur or a project manager, you need to focus on the future. You need to identify what caused the mistake. You need to identify how you can quickly identify the mistake is happening. You need to identify what can be done to stop the natural progression of the mistake. In short, identify what should you look for and what should you do when you see it.
What you shouldn’t do is look for excuses or blame. The past is the past. Get over it!