You are previewing The Art of Agile Development.

The Art of Agile Development

Cover of The Art of Agile Development by James Shore... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
O'Reilly logo

Fail Fast

It may seem obvious, but failure is another source of waste. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid failure entirely is to avoid doing anything worthwhile. That’s no way to excel. As [DeMarco & Lister 2003] said, “Projects with no real risks are losers. They are almost always devoid of benefit; that’s why they weren’t done years ago.”

Instead of trying to avoid failure, embrace it. Think, “If this project is sure to fail, I want to know that as soon as possible.” Look for ways to gather information that will tell you about the project’s likelihood of failure. Conduct experiments on risk-prone areas to see if they fail in practice. The sooner you can cancel a doomed project, the less time, effort, and money you’ll waste on it.

Failing fast applies to all aspects of your work, to examples as small as buying a bag of a new type of coffee bean rather than a crate. It frees you from worrying excessively about whether a decision is good or bad. If you’re not sure, structure your work so that you expose errors as soon as they occur. If it fails, let it fail quickly, rather than lingering in limbo. Either way, invest only as much time and as many resources as you need to be sure of your results.

With these principles guiding your decisions, you’ll fear failure less. If failure doesn’t hurt, then it’s OK to fail. You’ll be free to experiment and take risks. Capitalize on this freedom: if you have an idea, don’t speculate about whether it’s a good idea—try it! Create an experiment that ...

The best content for your career. Discover unlimited learning on demand for around $1/day.