Fail Fast Fail Cheap
The new PDCA?
It’s the 21st century, people. We need to get with the program as there are some new rules to learn
I heard an interesting debate on the radio the other day. Two academics were arguing about the impact that the information age has had on us and the way we do business. One academic said it has been bad for us and (you guessed it) the other argued the opposite
The information age is bad for us – the case for the prosecution
The academic who argued that the information age had been, on the whole, bad for us, had a good reason for saying it. He stated that in the past, when we had to spend a week painstakingly researching something, we valued what that research eventually yielded. It would have constituted a significant investment for us and, because of that, we’d want to extract as much value from the result as we could. He argued that the fact that we can find out in 5 minutes what it used to take us a week to uncover, causes us to undervalue the outcome and we often don’t bother to learn from it, or even process it properly. This is certainly something I can identify with and, to a degree, recognize in myself. But, as always, there’s a flip side, and here it is ….
The information age is bad for us – the case for the defense
Old business rules no longer apply. Things move more quickly, things are more transient, life-cycles of products and of trends are shorter. “Right first time” is dead. We haven’t got time to get it right first time. By the time we’ve got it right, the opportunity has passed
This change in dynamics brings two implications;
- We need to be quick, agile to seize small windows of opportunity and, (as a result of moving fast);
- The risk of defects and failures will increase
Now, as quality professionals, that gives us a problem. Failures, we are taught, are bad and should be avoided at all cost
But hang on, that’s not quite true is it? Expensive failures are bad. Damaging failures are bad … but if we can find a way to fail fast …. and fail CHEAP … then …
So “Fail Fast Fail Cheap” is the new PDCA. Right?
Well, not quite. In some industries cheap failures are difficult to manage. Food, drugs, medical devices, aerospace? The idea that these industries could evolve into a fast moving trial and error model is inconceivable. Their failures are potentially dangerous and very damaging. The chances of a quick and graceful exit after a failure in those industries are small. So PDCA certainly is not dead. But fast moving consumer markets with low public safety risks … that’s different, and we need to accept that different, and perhaps mildly sacrilegious, rules may now apply
Anyway, for those of you looking for some new rules, I hope this is a new one worth thinking about. Here’s an article on the subject I found in Business Week on the same subject