What is a Failure of the Last Mile?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 04 March 2020
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Failure of the last mile is a phrase that can be applied to a variety of fields to express the importance of the last leg or finishing details of a project or goal. While the concept can be applied to many circumstances, it seems to have originated in the technology sphere, specifically related to communications providers. To provide Internet, cable or phone service, companies had to spend lots of money on building the massive infrastructure necessary to make those services available to their customers. Part of that massive infrastructure, however, includes what service companies referred to as the last mile — laying the cable or phone lines connecting the infrastructure to each end user. Without this last mile, the massive infrastructure was rendered essentially useless because the project goal, communication service for its customers, was no longer attainable.

Failure of the last mile, therefore, focuses on the critical nature of the final steps of a goal. Even if the bulk of the job is completed, sometimes that last part can make or break success.


Perhaps the most literal application of the concept relates to running a marathon. A runner may spend months preparing for a marathon. He may train every day and practice running long distances to build up his endurance. Despite being properly prepared, if a mile before approaching the end, the runner falls and can't finish the race, he can be said to experience a failure of the last mile in its strictest sense. He has put in lots of preparation but fails in the final leg to achieve his objective of finishing or winning the marathon.

A failure of the last mile can be applied to politics as well. For example, if a political party wants to increase voter participation, the party might invest time and money into encouraging voter registration and voting. If the week or day before voting occurs, all advertising stops, or the political party does not telephone or email prospective voters on voting day, it may not be successful in increasing voter turnout. The hard work and money invested is essentially erased by a failure of the last mile or follow-through up to the minute when that goal could be achieved.

Perhaps the easiest way to think of this concept is to consider the car salesman. A car salesman may spend lots of time convincing someone to buy a car. He might spend lots of time informing the customer about the features of the car, taking him on multiple test drives, and even meeting with him over multiple days. After all this work, the customer might agree to buy the car, but if the car salesman doesn't see that purchase to its end (i.e., to the point that the customer signs the paperwork) and rather hastily moves on to the next customer, the salesman might fail at the last mile if the first customer ends up changing his mind. In other words, a failure of the last mile, is a failure of a salesman to seal the deal.

Sealing the deal, reaching the end, accomplishing a goal are all antitheses of a failure of the last mile. Whether in business, competition, technology or other fields, the final details of any endeavor are important and can be critically important to success. Relax too soon and your endeavor can be subject to a failure of the last mile. Follow through to the last minutes and your project or goal is more likely to be successful.


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Post 4

Bhutan- I think that sometimes people that experience failure at the last mile might be experiencing a fear of success.

Some people when they get close to a goal that they want to achieve suddenly get scared and subconsciously sabotage themselves when they are close to the goal.

This happens a lot in weight loss because losing weight is easier than managing your weight day to day. People see their lives changing and some are not ready for the changes.

Failure of the last mile is really frustrating for most people but analyzing the failure helps to determine what went wrong and why things went wrong.

For example, saying that someone is close to their weight loss goal and suddenly overeats at a party has to ask why did the action take place. Were they depriving themselves and had an uncontrollable urge to eat these forbidden foods, or was the problem deeper than that?

Post 3

Latte31-That is a good example of failure at the last mile. Another example of a failure at the last mile has to involve weight loss.

Many people successfully lose weight and when they reach a comfortable weight loss they start to go back to their old eating habits.

For example, if you are a member of Weight Watchers and are about a few pounds from your goal and a friend invites you to a party and instead of focusing on your commitment to eat healthier, you eat everything in sight and come back to the meeting having gained an additional two pounds.

This scenario happens a lot in weigh loss because people feel that they have mastered their eating problem, but overeating is like an addiction that has to be dealt with for the person’s entire life.

Post 2

6pack-Failure at the last mile is a failure to continue the very things that brought you success for a temporary shift in priorities.

For example, an elementary student that is about to get on the honor roll but will not study for a final exam and blow his or her chances of getting on the honor roll because of this one test.

It is best to have set goals in mind and continually work toward them in a comfortable progression. This allows for progress to be made without any dramatically increased effort. This way you will make your goal and it will seem automatic because you planned carefully.

Post 1

I think in metric-using countries they call it: failure of the last kilometer.

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