Failure is probably the worst term you want to put up with during your work day. It’s so easy to fail when making a plan for a project. Even the most experienced managers can never be 100% sure that their plan will work and produce results for clients, despite all the efforts from the team.
If you take a look at some numbers, failures are actually around three times more common than successes. According to Pm solutions, an average IT company faces a $74 million risk from projects in a year. Another study in the sphere shows that 68% of companies are three times as likely to fail than to achieve success in a project,
According to various sources:
75% of businesses expect their software projects to fail.
One in every six IT projects is going to cost you three times more than you actually think.
Half of all the project management agencies close in about three years.
This list can be endless. Although these are all different studies and examples, they all indicate pretty much the same thing: Projects are doomed even before they start, or most of them will fail sooner or later. Still, the need for project managers is not going down because of bad statistics. On the contrary, more and more jobs, up to 15 million, are anticipated to be available to be filled by project managers in the next 10 years.
But what if…
All these numbers and facts are surely very scary, but problems are created to be solved, not run away. Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. With so many failures happening all the time, there is a lot to learn from it and actually overcome those difficulties. What if you could find a way, to “fail fast and recover on the go” to make the project much better? That seems to be a dream idea, but it’s not impossible.
In one of our previous articles about project methodologies, this point was touched upon very briefly. The “fail fast” idea concerns pretty much any project that has no precise goals or a clear structure.
Think positively. If most projects are doomed for failure statistically, then it’s worth it to fail on a small scale, but recover from those failures fast enough to not inflict fatal damage onto the project and even more, correct the mistakes and get on the right track.
How do you fail fast
In order to fail fast, yet small, you will need to break down your project in a few small parts that can be completed individually and separately from each other. It’s like constructing a wardrobe: You combine the drawers, small sections, doors (and pretty much any other part that you intend to have in your wardrobe) separately and then build it up into one, complete, final product. Make sure that each part of the project is small enough to be completed in a relatively fast amount of time (around 15 days) but large enough to make a difference in the overall project.
After this, you need to define specific time frames for each part to be completed. Usually, seven to 28 days is what you want to go for, depending on a specific part. Once the project part is completed, you need to assess and test it, to make sure you produced something that resonates with your audience and is actually useful. The assessment can take different forms depending on the product (for example, if it’s a software feature or upgrade, it can go live via a beta test and users will be able to quickly assess it and see if it’s what they are looking for and provide feedback) and most likely will not be what it needs to be.
There you have it! All your work that you did for the past two to four weeks means nothing: It’s a failure. But hey, on the brightside, it’s just a small portion of the overall project (in this case let’s say software) that your team planned to work on for two years and you already know it’s bad and how to fix it. Now there is some useful information right there. Surely, you have failed to deliver what was needed, but on the bright side you can make the appropriate changes and tweak the project part into what it needs to be.
The same process can be done repeatedly for all the remaining parts untill you will be able to produce the final result – flawless in every aspect of its creation. If you stop to think about it, it’s perfect because you failed so many times before it was finally produced. If not for all the countless failures, your success might not have been achieved at all.
Bill Gates once said “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
If there are people who know what they are talking about, this guy is definitely among the top of the list. Always take a look at things from different angles: What seems to be a dark and damp place from one side, might be shiny and sunny from the other. All professionals are eternal scholars in life and nothing can teach them better, than the hard blow(s) of failing.
It’s all a matter of how you look at things: there is always a way out from every situation, you just need to find it. If this sounds like a movie quote to you, it’s totally fine! Movies are not made solely on fiction and fantasy, there is a considerable amount of truth in them 🙂
Give this approach a try and tell us what you think about it. Once you start thinking this way, you’ll be surprised just how many things can be turned into opportunities that you didn’t even think about before. Share your opinion in the comments below!