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September 05 , 2009

Breaking Failure

How to Break the Cycle of Business Failure and Underperformance Using Root Cause, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, and an Early Warning System



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  • Proven in high-stakes, high-risk environments–from defense to healthcare
  • For business functions ranging from marketing to HR, R&D to M&A
  • Indispensable for all executives, entrepreneurs, strategists, and product managers

This guide brings together simple, risk-free, and low-cost ways to break cycles of business failure and underperformance. These techniques aren’t new or trendy: they’ve repeatedly proven themselves in mission-critical disciplines ranging from manufacturing to space exploration, with lives and billions of dollars on the line. They work. And they’ll work for you, too.


First, you’ll learn how to use well-proven Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) techniques to anticipate potential failure points before you introduce products, implement strategy, or launch marketing campaigns. Next, utilizing Root Cause Analysis (RCA), you’ll learn to uncover the root cause of business problems, so you can solve them once and for all. Third, you’ll discover how to use an Early Warning System (EWS) to identify “driver” variables in your business, gaining timely and actionable insights without complex predictive modeling.


Whatever your role in decision-making, leadership, strategy, or product management, Breaking Failure will help you mitigate risk more effectively, achieve better results–and move forward in your career


When lives are on the line, when billions of dollars are at risk, failure is not an option. That’s why industries such as aerospace, chemical engineering, and healthcare have pioneered world-class methods for identifying, anticipating, and mitigating failure. In Breaking Failure, Alexander D. Edsel helps you adapt these proven techniques to the realities of your business.


You’ll discover how to plan more effectively for contingencies, and how to uncover and address the root causes of poor performance in business functions ranging from marketing to hiring. Equally valuable, you’ll learn how to systematically improve your situational awareness, so you can uncover problems before they damage relationships, brand reputation, or business performance.


Adapted to be 100% practical and actionable, these techniques will help companies of all sizes, in all markets. As you move towards greater speed and agility, they will become even more indispensable.


A practical, systematic approach to “Breaking Failure” in your company

  • Use Problem Framing to overcome the human bias towards thoughtless action
  • Use Failure Mode & Effect Analysis (FMEA) to anticipate problems, prioritize risks, and plan corrective actions
  • Use Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to identify true causes of failure in any process, product, or project
  • Use an Early Warning System (EWS) to quickly recognize signs of underperformance
  • Use Pre-Planned Exit Strategies and Exit Triggers to end failure and underperformance issues you can’t fix
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