Huh? You want me to fail?
No, I don’t want you to fail. But it is inevitable that to go forward we will take risks and inherent in risks is some failure. Today the average business returns value one time for every four new initiatives they try. In my opinion that is too much failure. Yet, if you can change that paradigm and fail once out of every four times, you will be driving business growth!
So how do we change the paradigm?
To minimize failure, start with a focused strategy; a strategy that is clear to all who read it and is specific enough to serve as a compass for all who are to implement it. Once that is done, fail first, fail fast and fail often. Why?
Failure suggests you are thinking big and challenging the status quo. If you are standing still you are not taking any action in which you can fail; it may feel safe but you are not moving forward. If you are to grow, you need to forge ahead. If you have a clear direction and have declared your strategic focus it is time to move forward, to re-evaluate what has become standard and push the envelope to incorporate new ways to offer value to the market you serve.
What is the best way to do that?
In order to maximize forward progress and minimize failure of a growth initiative, embrace experimentation and allow failure early in the process. Early in the process, the organization hasn’t invested much resource. If an idea fails, fail early and fast so that you can incorporate the learning into the journey of implementing the initiative. The initiative doesn’t have to fail just because the first try didn’t work. That failure produces learning that can be used to improve the approach and increase success. It’s called stage gate development.
Stage Gate Development
Stage gate development means that for an initiative to move through its development process, it must pass through defined stages and gates. For an initiative to move through each gate it must meet pre-determined criteria for success. At each stage of development the “gate” criteria gets stiffer and tougher. The first gate may be market feasibility–does our target customer need or want it? No? Ok, a failure. Do we stop? Maybe, depending on how off track we are. But it may just change. We may need to adjust how we approach it. Make the change, evaluate again. Green light? Pass the gate!
Now, the next step may be production feasibility–how do we make it for the value the market is willing to pay? Can we pass? Yes? On to market delivery development or what ever is the next stage. Accelerated failure needs to be tied to accelerated learning which means accelerated growth. If we don’t fail we may not be learning. And an early failure doesn’t cost much time or money but earns a lot of information upon which we can build success.
In the end, the number of initiatives that fail are reduced because the failures along the way allow fine tuning and improvements that translate into winning!