It’s a strong word shame - with some pretty good gifs too.
At Loomery, we don’t actually think shipping anything is shameful - getting products and new things out the door into the world is an amazing achievement, especially if you work in a complex organisation or industry.
But, when it comes to digital things, we really do believe that shipping early is the key to driving progress today… and maybe shipping early enough that you feel a little bit ashamed of what you first launched is the right approach.
That was why we were so pleased to be joined by Jonny, CEO at Progression and Steve, Deputy Transformation Director at Lloyds, for our first event - Shipment of Shame - which was focused on sharing what they’ve learnt the hard way by shipping products early.
Shipping early means accepting lack of perfection and risk
Both Jonny and Steve identified a key cultural pre-condition to shipping early: accepting that perfection is impossible and that launching anything means engaging with a degree of risk.
The organisations that Jonny and Steve have worked at are a diverse bunch - from centuries old institutions like Lloyds, to brand new start-ups like Osper and scale-ups like Deliveroo. These different contexts mean typically quite different cultures, and shared understanding of this reality of products in today’s world.
Jonny has been lucky enough to work in a number of teams that embrace hiccups as part of the process - with the memorable overnight success of Osper due to Davina McCalls endorsement - one example that paid off positively in the long run even if it meant a frantic few months for the team.
For Steve, the battle has frequently been trying to reorient more risk averse cultures to exhibit this spirit. With hindsight, his experiences where caution and over-planning had won out actually meant more risks were accumulated. The opportunity to iterate and innovate was deferred.
“We should have worked harder on more iterative changes to what we had. Because not shipping stuff earlier just meant we pushed all those problems to the right and made it tough for ourselves in the end. And it meant all the cool stuff just got delayed.” Steve
“Nothing that I’ve ever done in my career has made me think I should slow down... There have been other things I shipped that didn’t go well but if I do a cost benefit I’m always going to be on the side of ‘get it out earlier'’.’ Jonny
Shipping fast needs to pair with learning fast
Of course, it’s not just about getting products out of the door with wild abandon.
Both Jonny and Steve stressed that preparing to learn, pivot and adapt are critical to making the most of the opportunity presented by new launches.
Steve highlighted the need to both plan for success and failure, and be ready to identify the bad as well as the good post-launch. At Loomery, we’re big fans of pre-defining Pivot Triggers in this context.
Jonny shared that this way of thinking can be a struggle in fast paced environments when changes or new features aren’t given time to be truly tested and learnt from before they are retired. Immediate negative analytics results don’t necessarily mean something new will be a long term failure.
“It’s great to release fast and get things out there but if you're dismissing fast and not learning then it’s quite pointless. Every place I’ve worked, we have challenges with some legacy code and thinking.” Jonny
Every organisation can make bold bets… and mitigate the risks
Making small iterative changes can be one way to ship at speed. It might not fit the whole need initially and you will need to fight the temptation to constantly keep adding to the requirements but this is one way to get a product out the door and start the learning process. As Jonny mentions, you need to separate the quality of the bet with the outcome of the bet.
But leaders need to be on board, which can often be a entire cultural shift. It can be hard to trust the process, empower teams to make decisions and create learning opportunities. At Loomery, we believe that you learn by making and this is the best way to create meaningful change for your customers.
“It’s all about creating the culture around how you get stuff done and not feeling like a mistake is a problem. It takes time and energy but it’s well invested and if you can get there it pays dividends.” Steve
So what have we learnt about shipping shameful products?
Throughout our event, it was clear that there is absolutely nothing shameful about shipping products at pace. Utilising this approach is actually a fantastic way to accelerate progress and become an immense learning opportunity for you, your team as well as your organisation.
“It’s always a learning opportunity. You know which areas there’ll be problems and you find ways to mitigate those. You also learn what to care about.” Steve