| Photo by Klaus Wachsmuth |
I had the great pleasure to do my military service in the
Swedish Army Band, that at the time (1992) was made
up of conscripts. Not only did I get to wear stuff like the picture to
the left and play in an awesomely great band, but also did we travel
Europe and played, among other places the Casino in Monaco. It was a
awesome year in many regards and I tied friendship-knots with a lot of
people that still get to meet today.
On our last day in the band there were a lot of tears and saying
farewell to friends and officers that had taken care of us. Through all
the emotions that day I still remember one thing that an officer said as
his part of his farewell speech:
Fellas - don’t fear mistakes. By all means, fail. But try to steer
away from irreversible mistakes.
I’ll tell you right away that I didn’t fully understood that then. And
maybe not now either, but let me take you through some thoughts on this
that have helped me during the 20+ years since he said that to me. And
how I’ve during the last years have found another, simpler approach.
What I think that our captain tried to tell us
was something about risk. Things will end up failing. That’s not a
biggie if that doesn’t cost you too much. If you forgot to pick up
milk… so what?
No milk today and but you can pick up some
But if you forget to pick up your kid from football training… there
will be some bad consequences (it actually happened to a dad in Sweden a
few months back - could have been me). So for important things like that
you have to put in some kind of warning system that helps you to
remember that. The higher the cost of forgetting the thing the more
warning systems and help to remember it we need.
This is basic risk management and is brilliantly described by
that often refer people to. Dan tells us that risk has
two components; cost and likelihood. If something is very costly (to
miss for example) and also has a big likelihood to occur, well then you
sure want to think about it. Deeply. And long. Before you try to do
something about it.
If it's not that costly and not that likely either... well go on... just
For another combination you have to make up your own mind. The important
thing is that you need to think and make an opinion for yourself.
In the diagram to the right you see my very risk friendly decision
matrix. Don't use this for all your decisions.
### Failing faster
However... I'm now an older man with more experience. I'm still not
wiser and I definitely don't say that I'm wiser than my captain. He told
us to never say that to him, so I better not.
But I think differently about matter like these nowadays. I think the
real trick lies in failing as fast as possible and make corrections. In
fact, I'll go so far as to say that in business the future belongs to
the people that can fail and iterate the fastest. It's of course not
only me that says that (then I wouldn't believe in it) so please read up
on the Lean Startup
that is swiping the business world, both for startups but
also big enterprises.
What I mean is that if you can iterate fast the cost of failing goes
down. Me driving the wrong way for 10 minutes is not as costly as me
driving the wrong way for 10 hours. So I try to check that I'm driving
the right way often (if I don't know the way already).
I work with a great product owner right now here at
you Kevin) that have told his team roughly this:
> You don't need to give me any estimates and plans. I have great fate
> in you and think that you probably know better than me what is the
> next great thing to do. Hey - it's even ok that you fail and end up
> doing the wrong thing. As long as you fail fast and learn from it.
> I can cover the cost of you doing the wrong thing for two weeks. It's
> not ok that you fail for three months and then come back to me and
> say: it can't be done. Let's fail faster than that.
| From HowStuffWorks
Awesome! I'd love an product owner like that. It also acknowledges the
fact that we don't know what the best route to success is, or even what
we should build to best serve our customers. To know that we have to try
it out in a real-life scenario, with real customers, doing real things.
And then iterate new versions to correct our early hypothesis on what we
thought would make a big business impact.
Now... where have I heard this kind of reasoning before... I'm sure it
was done by some clever guys... Ah yes - all scientists all over the
and up to today works this way. It's
called the the scientific method
and has proven useful to them. It
might be to me and you too.
I suggest that rather than to try to outsmart, outplan, outthink and
handle every possible risk and uncertainty we should instead try to
redesign our work so that we fail faster. Yes, you read that correctly,
I said **change the way we work** in order to fail faster. I think the
future belongs to the people and companies that can iterate fast.
What can I do to iterate faster? To fail faster? How can I faster get to
know that I'm going the wrong way? That I'm about to forget to pick up
my kid? That my code is not only used but also making an business
impact? What are the smallest steps I can take to learn more?
Most likely I haven't told you anything that you couldn't have read
somewhere else. And even more likely there's theories, diagrams and
formulas that can prove this. But this was more a kinda of "I feel this"
post. I long for you to point me to the theories that support this. Or
falsifies it. Please tell me fast - I need to fail. Faster.