How Quality Enables Speed Even in "Fail Forward Fast"

"Short cuts make long delays." — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring via Pippen

Tom Peters and others are attributed with saying "Fail. Forward. Fast."

I know some companies that embrace that in a smart ways. And other companies attempt but in a way that makes it much harder to learn from the failure, and thus take it much longer to learn the proper lessons.

The companies that do it smart understand that even in going for learning from failure, quality is a key enabler to speed. Here are the key secrets they know that most companies miss at least three of the of the five.

  1. They know "why" the fail fast mantra was created. It was not created because they learned a lot from releasing defective software or services to customers. The fail fast mantra was mostly created from the point of pain of working hard to create full featured services only to learn that customers didn't want all the features or to have them served in the way the creators planned on.
  2. They have a good idea of what questions they need answers to before they begin. In other words, they have a strong idea about a number of the goals and requirements they have for the product. The initial product is developed quickly by guessing what the minimal features required are and learning as quickly as possible if they guessed right.
  3. They know a defective product obscures learning. If the customer can't use the minimal value product in a way that gives the answers you needed, you failed in failure. All you have learned is ways that you can break the product so the customer can't use it. The customer has to be able to use it well for you to understand how it is used and how it is valuable — or if is not valuable.
  4. They know quality is speed in developing that minimal valuable product. To get the product to the customer in a way that works, a quality practice is needed each step of the way. The time that is spent in reworking the product because of design or implementation errors is lost time. Doing proper design and reviews is a key to speed to the value of learning from customers.
  5. They know how to learn from failure. If we strive to be exceptional leaders, we will engage in bold projects and bold projects are not safe. They have risks. There will be failures and they will hurt. Exceptional leaders know how to learn from those failures - and they do so with style!

Listen to Pippen. If you want to learn fast from failure, do it with quality and style.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT