In my entire life I don't believe I was ever described as being a 'failure.' Lord knows I have often felt that way given how Americans label people. I could live with not meeting expectations for beauty, social position, or relationships (being a single heterosexual female does have its drawbacks). But, I did pride myself on delivering what was expected of me.
When I was 6 my mother (pregnant I do believe) sent me on a hunt for my brother, age 5, who had not come home from kindergarten. Leaving aside the wisdom of a mother expecting a small child to search for another small child (it was 1959 and she was home alone with 2 other small children), I took on that assignment with determination.
We lived in a 2 family house (aka 2 flat) in Cleveland on the upper level. The lower level was occupied by Nicky (the landlord) and his roommates Romeo and Bill. All worked for the Fire Department and had the requisite Dalmation (Pepper) as a pet. It was a rainy day and I sat down on the steps in the back landing to put on my boots. Nicky came out of his unit, saw me and asked what was up. I told him and he said I should wait and he would come with me. Little did he know how single minded I am. Nicky did not come back out as quickly as I expected, so I marched off in search of my brother. I found him at the intersection of our street with a main drag. He had been held after school for some foolishness on his part. We started back across the main drag and there was Nicky's big yellow Ford coming down our street. He insisted we get in and, needless to say, he was quite put out with me. I, on the other hand, was not at all worried about his fussing since I had completed my mission and found my brother. My mother's approval, or reproach, was all I was concerned about.
So, keeping in mind that I have a lifetime commitment to delivering on a task, imagine how I felt today.
Today I attended yet another high level meeting for the project I am on. Our top-level fearless leader labeled us a "failure" because we cannot deliver on the original schedule. Never mind that the reason we can't deliver is outside our control and simply undoable. Never mind that delivering on schedule will break our organization. Nope. What matters is that we made a commitment to complete the project on date certain and we can't make the date. So we failed. Or did we?
According to our next level leader we failed because we can't make the date. The reasons don't matter. I am so angry and offended by that assessment I don't know where to begin. It is correct we cannot deliver on the original schedule, but if the choice is delivering the schedule or delivering the functionality, I'll take the functionality any day. Had we delivered on schedule we would most certainly have broken the organization. But instead of receiving some recognition for preventing a disaster we are castigated by the top executive for failing to meet a date that was somewhat arbitrary to begin with, and told by our division level executive that this is the "new culture" of the agency,so get used to it.
So, I end my government career labeled a failure. But am I? I don't think so. I think any leadership that is hung up on meeting a date, without consideration of all the variables involved, is the true failure. To be sure accountability and responsibility is important and I support those concepts. However, I believe you must consider the entire package before claiming victory or defeat. History, in the end, will exonerate us whether we are alive to see it or not. Yet it still hurts to be labeled a failure when you know you aren't.
Retirement is looking real good right now.