One of the benefits of taking an agile approach to product development is the opportunity to make mistakes, to learn from them and to improve. Our sprints and frequent releases work to our advantage, giving us the chance to inspect and adapt. We can fail fast, reflect on the experience and quickly change direction to meet the needs of the customers and our team.
We build a healthy relationship with failure by failing fast and learning from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them. If you haven’t stopped to think about what the problem or mistake has taught you, you’re far more likely to make the same mistake again.
So what does failing fast look like?
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Let’s look at it from the product side first. Our regular sprints and releases give Product Owners an opportunity to quickly adapt to feedback, leading to a better product and happier customers. At the end of each Sprint we have a Sprint Review. This gives the team the opportunity to hear from their stakeholders about the features that were created. We also want to have good feedback mechanisms in place for our customers. If we do, after each release we will know if we’ve missed the mark, giving us the opportunity to react swiftly. We learn quickly what our customers want – and what they don’t.
Now let’s look at the team. Frequent retrospectives allow us to reflect on many aspects of our team, including our people, relationships, processes, and tools. As a result of these discussions, the team will identify opportunities and come up with an experiment they would like to try during the next sprint to improve. Not all experiments will be successful, but all provide the opportunity to learn.
Failing fast allows you to minimize the impact of your failure and quickly apply the lessons it taught you. When we’re working in an agile team we are able to confine our risk to a single sprint, reducing impact to the product as a whole.
One of the best things a ScrumMaster can do for their team is let them know that it’s okay to fail sometimes. If a team member knows that, they will be open when they run into problems, allowing the whole team to help and to learn from it.
You can learn just as much from failing as from succeeding – as long as you take the time to do it!
When was the last time you failed fast? What did you learn from it?