I’m a continuous improver AND a beauty pageant winner (and loser). I certainly cannot ignore the parallels between two of my favorite things – making ugly processes better and walking on-stage in 5″ high heels and a swimsuit. Stay with me here….

Lesson 3 > Post-Mortem: Don’t Steal the Crown


We all know that moment in Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock’s character tries to grab the crown off of the new winner’s head. Don’t do this (unless there is a bomb attached to that crown).

It’s incredibly difficult to stand on that stage and keep a smile on your face when another woman’s name is called as the winner. You’ve dedicated an extreme amount of mental and physical energy into preparing. And likely you felt that everything went exceptionally well. You may feel blindsided. All you really want to do is run backstage to eat chocolate chip cookie dough and drink a bottle of wine (see Lesson 1).

So when you lose a pageant, don’t steal the crown, instead do a post-mortem.

In the weeks that follow, it’s time to genuinely reflect on the pageant experience. Evaluate your preparation. Did you truly do everything you could to prepare? Review feedback from the judges. Did you clearly communicate your why? Ask for feedback from peers and coaches. What areas should you improve before your next pageant?

You can’t possible conitnue to improve if you don’t learn from your failures.

Whenever you have a continuous improvement project fail, do a post-mortem. Ask the same types of questions: did you fully prepare and dig to the root cause of the problem? Did the stakeholders understand the why? Are there areas that should be improved? Work with your team to document your Lessons Learned. And whenever you win, you should still do a post-mortem so you can understand the keys to success. You can’t possibly continue to improve if you don’t learn from your failure.

The Lesson? After any success or failure (pageant or project), ask yourself and your team:

What went well?
What can be improved?
If you could go back and change something about the project, what would it be?

Then document and share these Lessons Learned so future projects can be better! A true continuous improvement culture embraces success…and failure!

Missed the first two Lessons? Go back to Lesson 1 or Lesson 2.

Author: Allison Greco

Author: Allison Greco

Founder, CII

I created my foundation with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. Over the past decade, I have held Continuous and Process Improvement roles for Black Hills Energy, Williams, the US Air Force and BNSF Railway. I’ve started new CI programs and reinvigorated stale ones. Along the way I earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and became a licensed Professional Engineer.