When Things Go Wrong…. (a story from the setting up of Colony Co-Working Space KL)

Today at Colony we had a little issue. We’re just a couple of weeks away from the renovation completing and we’ve had to prepare a lot of things like our kits for our members and more importantly the key cards and lanyards.

We took some time to design a really nice lanyard and sent it to the printers to print. We got them today and were really disappointed with what came out. I’m not going to share a picture of it because I’m too embarrassed to even have any digital footprint of it. Worst part is that we had printed a lot of them in bulk.

We managed to solve the situation in an hour or so. After speaking to the printers they agreed to reprint everything for us again without cost.

In any case I thought we learned some things from the little issue today so I sent the following e-mail to the team. After I wrote it out I thought it would be good maybe to share it on my blog here. So here it is.


Dear Colony Team,

When the Colony lanyards arrived today we were all caught by surprise of how they looked so different from the design we had given the supplier. That issue has been solved now.

However I think there are important insights that I wanted to point out on this issue.

We practice the principle of “Extreme Ownership” in our team. That means whenever someone has a task at hand, he or she takes full ownership of the result of it. The result is the most important outcome. In business things often don’t go as planned and we don’t achieve the result we expected. When these things happen, I as the team leader have a responsibility to go around and ask a lot of questions on what and why did it happen to understand the situation.

Here’s what to keep in mind when answering those questions.

1) Never fear telling the truth

There is no politics in this company and I don’t want us to have a culture of pushing blame when mistakes are made. Never find the need to blame someone else or to “cover yourself”. Everyone makes mistakes and each and every one of us is bound to make a mistake eventually.

More importantly though, understand that while we all practice extreme ownership of our own tasks, I take extreme ownership of all of you. So every mistake any of you make whether it was approved by me or not… is MY mistake. So I am in no position to blame any of you because I share that blame.

2) Never compromise on the good result you expect to get

If a result of your work isn’t good enough whether it’s because of something in or outside your control, NEVER defend it. If the lanyards are shit, they are shit and if we don’t think it’s not good enough then it’s not. Never settle for anything less than excellence. Focus on what went wrong and how to solve the situation. Take your emotions or ego out of the equation because….

3) It is NOT about you.

It isn’t. It’s never about me or you or anyone else. It’s about the purpose we set out to do on every single task. We are measured not by what anyone thinks about us or the task, we are measured only by the result and results don’t lie. So focus all our efforts on the results.

As a team we strive for our purpose of changing the work experience. We want Colony to be the best co-working space in KL or the best one in SouthEast Asia and heck maybe someday the world. In order to get there it’s not about how nice our space looks. It’s about how well we work together as a team and how hard we fight the urge to settle for anything less than the very best.

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