Project Management

Don’t Squander a Spectacular Failure

Lonnie Pacelli is an Accenture/Microsoft veteran with four decades of learnings under his belt. He frequently writes and speaks on leadership, project management, work/life balance, and disability inclusion. Reach him at [email protected] and see more at

As a new manager at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), I was determined to show others how it was done. But I took on too many clients simultaneously and didn’t ask for help. When a colleague tried to tell me things were going south, I ignored him. My stubbornness, naivete and ignorance led to screwing up not one job, but three.

Not only did I mess things up, but I wasn’t honest with myself about what happened, why it happened, and how I contributed to it. I was accountable for three spectacular failures, and for years was in denial of my own culpability. I was also too proud to admit my failures to colleagues and management and help others learn from them.

Later in my career, I came to grips with what happened and was willing to share the experience with others. But there were times along the way I could have helped others but didn’t. Bad on me.

I’ve learned over the years that spectacular failures, while painful, are also worthwhile nuggets to help both myself and others learn from mistakes and avoid touching a hot stove to see if it will burn their hand. I’d suspect that most of you reading this have experienced some type of spectacular failure in your professional or personal life. Yes, the failure was painful and something you probably don’t want to relive in any form.

What’s crucial, though, is how you take what you&…

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

- Edith Wharton