The perils of perfection: Why it's important to launch fast and fail fast
Are you risk averse? Do you suffer from analysis paralysis? Are you trying to achieve perfection before you launch that special program? If the answer is "yes," before you know it, someone may beat you to the punch. You will then proceed to kick yourself and wonder why you wasted so much time.
We've all been taught early that 100 percent is the score to achieve, so we are trained to make sure we are at 100 percent before we do most things -- especially something as important as a product or program launch.
However, with competition and market conditions changing so quickly, the longer you wait, the more likely you might be eating someone else's dust. Perfect can end up being imperfect in the grand scheme of things. This also applies to organizations that have launched first but don't pay attention to complaints, technology and the evolving needs of customers. If you launch first and you want to remain on top, you have to innovate and disrupt constantly.
A company that didn't do that when it had the chance? Kodak. Did you know Kodak actually invented the first digital camera in 1975? A former vice president of Kodak, Don Strickland, said: “We developed the world’s first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market.” Management was so focused on the success of their film products that they missed the digital revolution years after kicking it off. In a failure that surprised many, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
You want to launch fast, learn fast and fail fast. As long as you address the following questions, you may be closer to a launch than you think:
1. Are you satisfying a need based on feedback? Determine if what you are offering is something you know your audience is asking for. Watch market trends both inside and outside your industry. Conduct market research, send out surveys or simply talk to customers and get their thoughts.
2. Will your program sacrifice customer experience at this stage? In other words, will it impact the user negatively in any way? Even if the program is not at 100 percent in your eyes, you want to at least confirm that the experience will not cause complaints that could be damaging to your brand.
3. Can you identify a small group to test and learn the good, the bad and the ugly before rolling out? Find a group where you can safely test your product or service. "Safely" means they understand this is a beta test and there could be bugs. This group should be able to dissect every aspect of the product and give you thorough feedback. Your test group should be a mix of different target audiences, geographies and profiles so you receive well-rounded feedback.
4. What will you learn after launching? Create a measurement plan and determine what will be deemed a success (and failure). This plan should include your key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as your return on investment (ROI). Your measurement plan should also include qualitative feedback. Surveys, for instance, are a great source of feedback, or you can get more personal with focus groups.
5. Can you act quickly on what you learn? You will need to understand upfront whether you have the capacity to enhance or make changes based on your learnings. If you are not willing to make enhancements, you could find yourself behind the eight ball when competitors find your product's weakness and take over.
6. Can you support the program if it is successful? If your pilot is successful, you have to be certain that you can roll out without any snags. You need to understand whether your resources/fulfillment and technology can support a larger population
7. Can you exit, if necessary, without causing any negative experience or complications? It's important to have an exit plan in case you can't sustain the program. Your brand is on the line if you cause any disruption in customers' lives. So, always be prepared for how you would gently end a program if necessary. Think timely customer notifications, alternate solutions or perhaps even a personal call to explain the sudden change.
Many have a much longer list before they are willing to take a risk and put themselves out there. But unless you are curing cancer or working on a program that has serious implications to people's livelihood, lives and well-being, then chances are you are probably overthinking your launch.
Could you run into glitches? Could you discover errors that make you flinch? Could you find yourself shaking your head? Yes, of course. But it's what you do after that matters. You have to be in a position to act fast (there's that word again) to refine, retune, readjust and reimagine.
Most likely, the glitches you find will be more visible to you than your users and customers. However, if you want to deliver on an exceptional and unique experience, you can't be complacent. Remember, there are competitors who are watching and chomping at the bit to outrun you. You and your team were first to market -- don't let anyone take that away from you. We've seen many "me too" products and services outrun the originals.
To keep you motivated to move fast and ahead of the rest, remember that you identified the need, you took the risk and you launched quickly. And, most importantly, you didn't get caught up in being perfect.