Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? Avoiding the Chain of Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Organization

Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr.

Wharton School Publishing,  September 2005

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Catastrophes don't "just happen." From Enron to the Space Shuttle Columbia, to 9/11, virtually every disaster is the result of a series of mistakes -- each one easy to overlook, each one set in motion because people simply refused to believe the evidence staring right at them.

Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr. identifies the common factors beneath massive failures ranging from the Titanic to Firestone Tire, Three Mile Island to "New Coke." Why did they happen? What could have prevented them? How did they spiral out of control? Drawing on these lessons, he introduces the first systematic approach to managing multiple mistakes so they don't lead to disaster.

Mittelstaedt addresses errors in preparation, execution, strategy, and culture. He shows how to build internal systems that trigger loud and actionable alarms before "failure chains" accelerate beyond control. These techniques don't just apply to high-profile disasters: they're equally valuable in helping you avert failures arising from mistakes in operations, analyzing markets, understanding customers, designing and implementing strategy, or directing capital investments.

*38 insights that can save your organization (and your career)
The disasters waiting to happen -- and how to prevent them

*Why your record of success can be your worst enemy
Don't get too confident, don't get too comfortable

*"Can't happen?" Says who?
Identifying and training for your "impossible" worst-case scenarios

*Why reinventing yourself once isn't enough
Knowing when it's time to reinvent yourself again

hardcover | ISBN: 9780131913646 | Publication Date: September 2005

Reviews:
"I wish I had read this book earlier in my career. The examples and stories provide memorable ways to help you avoid the deadly chain of multiple mistakes."
--Lewis E. Platt, Chairman, The Boeing Company and retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett-Packard Company

"Failure -- what leader hasn't been there? The trick, as Bob Mittelstaedt's insights illustrate, is that you can and must avoid the type of unseen failures that drive you and your company off the proverbial cliff."
--Craig E. Weatherup, Former Chairman and CEO, The Pepsi-Cola Company

"Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal? is a compelling and highly readable source book for any CEO navigating through the risks of today's business environment. Robert Mittelstaedt provides a wealth of insights into what can go wrong in any business -- even a 'successful' one -- and how to recognize and prevent the ensuing chain of mistakes which could take you down."
--Ronald D. Sugar, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President Northrop Grumman Corporation

"We all believe mistakes are unavoidable. This book will teach you, through memorable examples, how to avoid the most common mistakes which can severely impact outcomes in the business world."
--Lewis E. Platt, Chairman, The Boeing Company and retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett-Packard Company

"Bob Mittelstaedt does a wonderful job of explaining, through well-known examples from the Titanic to the Columbia and many other well-known companies, that many 'accidents' are really 'incidents' with a long chain of mistakes, often going back many years and rooted in the institution's culture. This is a book well worth reading by those guiding business enterprises."
--Michael D. Zisman, Consultant to IBM Corporate Strategy, former IBM Vice President for Corporate Strategy, and Chief Executive Officer of Lotus Development Corporation