Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sometimes there's no time to process a failure before you have to act

We mentioned last week that learning from your mistakes takes time - time to process the complex emotional reactions people have to the failure of a project or initiative.

But what if you don't have time?

Imagine that you are Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, lauded as the most hands-on manager and best risk management CEO in the financial services industry. You've just learned that a series of trades from your "London Whale" have gone bad, very bad, and you will need to write down more than $2 billion. What do you do?

This is no ordinary mistake. This is a crisis. A leader such as Dimon has no choice but to do what University of Indiana professor Dean Shepherd, in his book "From Lemons to Lemonade: Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes" calls "working through the loss." He must very quickly get the facts, make decisions, provide information to the public, and maintain morale among the company's employees.

This Wall Street Journal article highlights Dimon's activities over a 45-day period, starting in early April 2012 when the first signs of a problem began to emerge into public view until the first week after the full-blown crisis began. The article paints a picture of a conflicted but ultimately resolute leader determined to guide the company through the crisis, and mindful of his own culpability.

Dimon certainly deserves much criticism for the predicament JP Morgan finds itself in. But his behavior in quickly assessing and acting on the problem has allowed him to weather the storm. Repairing the damage to the company will take years, but the crisis has been averted.

He will need to find some time on his own, this year or sometime down the line, to process his own role in the crisis and fully learn from it.

No comments:

Post a Comment