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To fail feels like the end of the world to me.  I’m a perfectionist.  I want things to follow a prescribed flow to reach a neat and logical conclusion. I have been more concerned with achieving the end result than following lean or agile philosophies that would require me to test along the way to fail early rather than when it really mattered. 

Several years ago I was managing the development, production and sourcing of then patent-pending sandals from China.   The tradeshow circuit and subsequent buying in the footwear world requires planning almost a year in advance of when the shoes will ever be seen by consumers. And the fact that our patent (which can be a three-year process) was still pending, we had to be first to market with our idea.

This time pressure created the environment of seemingly having to have every detail of the sandal perfected before it was ever able to be truly tested by the consumer.  We made tweaks along the way that seemed inconsequential, always aware of that end date – the date we needed the prototypes on the shelves at tradeshows for potential buyers.   

But one untested tweak (in the plastic material of the flip flop upper that made it feel more comfortable, but actually softened the integrity of the upper making it less resistant to wear, created a flaw that wasn’t caught until 5000 of that style was ordered and shipped.

Had we taken the time to develop these sandals in a safe-to-fail environment, with regular testing required after each adjustment was made would have saved us exponentially in the long run.

As I talk with those of you who are considering a more lean agile approach and wonder why testing so regularly is important, remember that one small change can make a big difference both in the actual development as well as its impact on the company bottom-line.

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