In the early noughties the idea of ‘move fast, break stuff’ caught hold (see more here).
…but things are different now!
It was used to break through the morass of dull headed corporate thinking and to accelerate experimentation.
But, as Mark Zuckerberg’s fall from grace, from startup God to mere mortal, shows, it is no longer enough to move fast and break stuff. We have to mop up our mess afterwards too. And, Facebook has been doing a lot of mopping up ever since Zuck got called to answer questions in various parliaments!
However, if we ditch the idea of ‘move fast, break stuff’ then we also risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater (!?!).
Hence, with my founders, we’ve found ourselves extending the concept to ‘move fast, break stuff, mop up’.
But what does this mean in practice?
Firstly, it means that early-stage startups need to reach a higher level of product functionality before it can truly test the market. In effect, consumers of apps, applications and services have greater expectation of it ‘just working’ and less tolerance of incomplete technology. It can’t break.
In the case of a startup or growth business which launches additional products or develops new brands alongside existing brands, it means we need to *quickly* recognise when we fail to hit our business objectives and be prepared to close things down that don’t work.
We need to test our ideas more rigorously before we release them too. Which means internal Proof of Concepts etc. We need to be more strategic and less impulsive.
The creation of a mini group of supporters who are willing to test your Alpha or Beta product can be a wise move – but this typically applies to the existing businesses looking to add new brands or revenues. Many early-stage startups struggle to maintain the pace of technical developments sufficient to keep prospects interested for long enough.
Look inside too
The ‘move fast, break stuff, mop up‘ idea also works inside your teams too. Crucially, it says, we like innovation and risk taking / experimentation – but we also have to be prepared to clear up afterwards.
Think of a child playing with bricks or Lego – at some point, chaos reigns and then shortly afterwards the bricks get tidied away. But, if the child never had the opportunity to play like this, they would miss out on growth and learning.
You can’t run a marathon if first you don’t learn to walk!
So, if you are a leader, give your team members permission to move fast, break stuff – but on the understanding that they tidy everything away afterwards.
If you are a member of a team looking to experiment or innovate, ask not only for the resources to create and test – but also for the time to ‘mop up’ afterwards. If, for instance, you run an alpha-testing group – then make sure you keep enough time to explain to the group what happened and if the product / service is not advancing, then why. This ‘mopping up’ ensures you maintain good will.
(For those that know me, the question I always ask, before a new project begins is, ‘what have you stopped doing’? This is similar in many ways, because it says – tidy away your previous projects / objectives before taking on new goals.)
Lastly, if you are a solo founder, then remember to give yourself the time to complete things and tidy away too.
So, my coaching question from this article has to be this:
When do we avoid the mopping up?
Answering this question will help us recognise why or when mopping up doesn’t happen and to begin to put in place practices to ensure we tidy up after ourselves.
You can read more startup insights like here.