A: I WOULD PUT GREATER EMPHASIS on giving my staff challenging responsibilities. We talk about celebrating failure and letting people learn from their mistakes, but it is difficult to not tighten control as the stakes get higher. Letting people practice on low-risk activities is fine, but everyone needs to be put into a situation where the risk is real, the pressure is high, and the responsibility for outcomes is their own. Interestingly, the tougher the situation, the bigger the learning and, in my experience, the better the performance. Strong employees respond to big challenges. Empowering staff members to lead and control their own projects has brought success with employee development and the projects themselves. However, it is an ongoing struggle to remember to do this, and to do it in such a way that the possibility of failure does not become a guaranteed failure.
MARK PETRICH, PH.D., PE
Mark is director, Single-Use Systems Engineering at Merck. He serves as second vice chair of the Bio-Process Systems Alliance.