“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

– Winston Churchill

Failing fast is the credo of the lean startup movement. The thought that when you fail individually or as a startup you need to pick yourself up as quickly as possible and move forward, which isn’t what “failing fast” means at all. While it does imply that you shouldn’t rest on your laurels and wait for the next revelation to come out of thin air, what it is really trying to tell you is that you should fail smart.

Take the time to understand why you failed but use that time effectively. Be smart about it. Failing fast, or failing smart, means examining why whatever mistakes were made, were made and how the problems can be fixed. To do this we suggest breaking your analysis of the situation down into five steps.

    1) Look at what wasn’t achieved or where the mistakes were made.

    Take the time to examine exactly where the mistakes occurred and write them down. When you are looking into mistakes it is crucial to drill down as deep as possible and not just skim the surface. Deep problems can become systemic and bring down more than a single area of your startup.

    2) Prioritize your top three

    Chances are that when you begin to drill down into your problems or the mistakes that were made you’ll begin to notice that there were either many, or offshoots of a single mistake. By prioritizing your top three mistakes you aren’t saying the other identified aren’t important and shouldn’t be resolved, rather that the three you’ve selected should be solved first.

    3) Why could these goals not be hit?

    As a team sit down and examine each of the three mistakes individually by asking why it could not be hit. Be careful not to place blame by asking “why was this goal not hit”, as you’ve already acknowledged mistakes and are now working to move forward.

    4) What is the new goal?

    Now that you’ve taken the time to understand exactly where the mistakes were and why they could not be hit, it’s time, as a team, to decide what your next steps are. Using your learning from why your previous goals could not be hit will help you to develop strategies for creating and hitting new goals.

    5) What needs to be done, by when, to achieve this goal by who?

    Now that tasks have been created, responsibility needs to be assigned within the team. Part of acknowledging mistakes is accepting where responsibilities are going to lay. Take time as a team to structure timeframes and measurements to help accomplish the new goals you have set.

If you want more information on a framework to do this, check out www.businessinstincts.ca and click on Clarity Management and the RIPKIT Process.