The mantra “fail fast, fail often” is a rallying cry for technologists pushing organizations to become more Agile, more Lean, and to push teams to deliver faster. What is being delivered and how valuable it is long term, however, tends to get lost in the shuffle and “fail fast, fail often” can lead to a big fail when there isn’t a clear goal in mind.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in France and if you’ve watched any of the games, one of the statistics talked about is time of possession. During the course of a game, teams will drive forward to test an opposing defense, then pull back, sometimes all the way to the goalkeeper, and try again. However, as soon as the defense has adjusted and passing lanes are open the offensive side is on the attack again working towards the desired outcome: Score a goal.
In April 2018 Sunnie Giles, a Forbes.com Contributor, posted an article: How To Fail Faster – And Why You Should. She states, “In today’s complex business environment, where things are changing constantly, speed of execution is a lot more important than perfect execution.” She points to a concept of iterations creating positive autocatalytic feedback loops which eventually leads to radical innovation. This is a pretty common view from many leadership teams on how they want to push their organizations forward.
The words “radical innovation” stuck out when I read the article. I have had the privilege to work with a number of organizations throughout my career. In some cases, the leadership inside the organization coveted innovation and spent a significant amount of time and money building up innovation teams. The opportunity to drive the business into adjacent markets, new markets entirely, or to refine their existing market offerings to expand the organizations hold on a market. More often than not, the “radical innovation” introduced by leadership was either cut off from the rest of the organization or was actively under attack by more established parts of the organization and in the end, not effective in achieving the original business objectives.
Teams get locked into playing possession and lose focus on moving down the field and scoring a goal.
Why? Executives jockeying for power, friction between “the way we’ve always done it” vs. “the new way we want to do it now,” shrinking budgets, changes in priority to shore up existing market share. A large number of different factors all branching from a common thread: a lack of focus on the desired outcome. Teams get locked into playing possession and lose focus on moving down the field and scoring a goal.
Four Steps to Fail Fast AND Achieve the Desired Outcome
How do you prevent getting locked into playing possession? At Trility, we break the process down into four distinct stages:
Each stage in the process has a clearly defined outcome to help ensure stakeholders can see the value along the way. Often companies are eager to jump straight to the Implementation stage and the “fail fast, fail often” mindset can achieve the discover and define stages – thus the desired outcome along the journey. However, unless you know where the goal is your team is just playing possession.