The Curate's Egg
The curate (clergy who are assistants to a parish priest) is eating breakfast at his bishop's house.
The bishop says to him, "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones."
The curate does not want to offend his host (and ultimate boss), responds, "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, despite all the commitment, intelligence and effort we put into something, it just isn't any good.
You take a punt on a new product feature, with no available data to back you up, so you go with your gut. But the customer doesn't buy it. There's no uptake.
You're called by your team (or your department or another function) to provide feedback on a product or service or capability that the team has spent weeks working on, and it just isn't on the mark. You just don't believe there's a market for it.
In times like these, it can be hard to tell it like it is, whether it's to someone else or yourself. Our tendency is to sugar-coat, to de-emphasize the negatives and focus on the positives. To make sure no one feels bad. To suggest, much like the Curate's Egg, that what we've done is 'good in parts'. Even when we know that this just isn't true.
The best thing to do, though, is to just tell it like it is. By all means, be nice, be thoughtful, be tactful. But also be honest. Be straightforward. And don't bullshit. Your broader mission is better served if you don't bullshit.
It's important to remember (and remind others, if needed) that this doesn't necessarily mean we're useless. Or that someone didn't do their job. Or that we shouldn't ever try.
It just didn't work out. Let's learn from this and move on.
(H/T to Phil O’Mullan.)