Like every startup founder, I want to go faster. Ship features faster, test hypotheses faster, sell faster.
The best way to go faster is to do less. Only build features customers want, market to the right customers, etc. Unfortunately this is easier said than done – no matter how well you execute a Lean Startup strategy, waste is inevitable. I don’t have a crystal ball to help me predict the optimal route for success.
Working harder is another way to go faster. But as we all know, “work more” has diminishing returns.
So you’re a Lean Startup doing your best to minimize waste and already working as hard as you can. What else can you do to go faster?
Our startup’s mistake “policy”
We have a rule at SoHelpful – mistakes are fine if you make them while trying to go faster.
That’s it. We don’t have caveats. None of us want to make mistakes – we all take pride in our work. But we tolerate mistakes to go faster.
Startups have only one real “mistake”
A bad mistake can cost bigger companies profits, customers, and bonuses.
Startups? Statistically speaking, our entire companies’ existence is probably a mistake – most startups fail. The only real mistake we can make is “we failed to discover a profitable growth business”. There isn’t anything we can do worse than that.
If we’re not making mistakes … we’re not going fast enough. And going too slow practically guarantees we’ll fail to discover a scalable new model.
Your team will judge you by actions – not words
This all seems really obvious, right? Just accept mistakes and you’ll go faster.
Like everything else in startups, it all comes down to execution. It’s easy for leaders to say “mistakes are ok…” until they happen. If you freak out when mistakes happen your team will react accordingly to prevent them.
They’ll get more cautious, go slower, and your odds of failure go up.
Example: software bugs
Nobody wants to ship buggy code. Customers complain and sometimes leave. Developers get sidetracked into fixing problems instead of releasing new features.
So buggy code got released … problems ensued. What do you, as the leader do?
If you’re a manager a big company you’re probably going to get the QA team and developers into a meeting and investigate what happened. You’ll ask about process, testing strategies, continuous integration, and requirements specification. Your goal is to prevent such problems from happening again – your job may depend on it.
So what happens when you bring these same management practices to your startup?
You probably don’t have a QA team, so you have the same conversation with the developers. They acknowledge the problem and commit to putting more mature software development practices in place. Suddenly you’ve got more paperwork, more meetings, a testing framework …
…and you’ve just slowed everything down.
Your alternative – do nothing
What’s your alternative? Don’t do anything – just let the developers fix it and see what happens. When they’re done, ask them to tell you what happened and how they fixed it. Just listen. Most likely they’re trying to get things done so they can move on to the next thing.
They’re just trying to go faster – exactly what you want.
Photo credit: Jimmie