Say YES to the Mess – Lessons in Failing Fast


After you finish a project, there’s always something to be learned or something you would have done differently.

This week, I attended the SAP Sapphire Conference in Orlando, Florida. On Wednesday, Lukas Egger, Head of Data Science at SAP Data Network, presented “Fail Fast to Accelerate Data-Driven Innovation.”

During his 40-minute presentation, Lukas spent a few minutes on lessons he learned when working on innovative projects. They resonated with me so much that I wanted to share them with you. He also happened to use little quips that made me like them even better.

1. Agility – A Rigid Discipline.

You need to have a cadence and structure even if you are innovating in an agile environment. Whatever the model is, stick to it. Consistency is key.

2. Adaption – Yes to the Mess.

Embrace it. This one is harder for some than others. I personally love chaos. But if you’re not like me, you may love order. Just remember, adaption is more important than perfection.

3. Uncertainty – No pain, No gain.

Certainty feels cozy. Be upfront that with innovative projects, there’s not going to be certainty. Things happen.  Stuff will not go according to plan. Make it clear that you are certain of the uncertainty.  Sounds crazy, but it will set the right expectations.

4. Culture – Eats Strategy.

We’ve all heard the phrase, culture eats strategy for breakfast. It’s true. I don’t care how awesome your plan is or project could be. If you don’t have the cultural buy-in, then it’s dead.

5. Value – Small is Beautiful.

Boil it down to a scope you can deliver. Remember that you can’t please everyone. Define your consumer/customer and plan a realistic scope.

6. Communication – Call Me Maybe.

Be old school.  Talk in person. Make phone calls. If you are leading or participating in an innovative project, don’t leave it up to technology to be your only means of communication. We all know how easy it is to read a text or email out of context. Voice inflection and body language can communicate much more than just words.

7. Progress – Seeing is Believing.

Give the consumer/customer what he or she wants. If they want a picture, give them a picture. Do not decide what they want. If you think you know better than the consumer/customer, please read my blog: Are You a Know It All and Don’t Know It?

8. Celebration – Only Everyday.

Learn how to celebrate the small victories. Give hive fives. Write happy post-it notes. You don’t have to overthink this one or spend time or money on it. Be nice, be happy, and find progress to celebrate.

Thank you to Lukas for allowing me to share these 8 lessons learned. You can find him on Twitter @Brusik.

This blog represents opinions that are solely my own and do not reflect opinions or views of my employer.

Sara Marshall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). You can find her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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