Steve Jobs said that ‘more was accomplished by moving ahead with incomplete plans than by waiting for perfect plans before moving forward.’ Others have argued to “not let perfection get in the way of progress.” Entrepreneurs will tell you that they make many mistakes with their initial “brilliant” idea before they land on the one that is a hit with the market. “Fail fast” is an operating mantra for many successful businesses that have disrupted their industries. So why then is it still not acceptable, both personally and institutionally, to try new things at work where the probability of failure exists?
Some argue that the consequences of failure are high as it can compromise credibility, future projects or roles, promotions or raises – why take these risks? I want to argue that taking these chances, moving ahead with incomplete ideas and plans, are in fact the only way to help your company stay ahead. Here are three tips to manage this process correctly:
1. Set the expectation that you are moving ahead with the explicit objective to learn. You will learn if you succeed and you will learn if you fail. In either case, you and your organization will be better off than with the status quo or waiting till everything is perfectly aligned.
2. Build into you plan an aggressive feedback loop. Ask as many stakeholders as possible what worked and what did not. Do it quickly and make changes quickly.
3. Employ the 10-1 Rule. Every great idea, new product or service, has on average about nine iterative points of failure before the magical 10th one. So execute your imperfect plan with additional nine steps where the intention is to iterate for failures. You simply cannot find the holy grail or true potential of your idea without expecting and planning for at least nine failures. The 10-1 Rule connects items #1 and #2 above.
This week, pull out an idea you have. The one you have had for a while that you know will improve things at work but just never did anything with. Go ahead and start with it. Talk to your manager or peer and consider that step one. Listen to their input on all the reasons why it is impossible, and bound to fail. Take the feedback, adjust your plan and move to step 2. Keep going, learn, and make it happen! The most motivating role a leader can play is to demonstrate this passion and commitment to push forward what you believe will be of benefit to others.