“Too big to fail” is a phrase used for large organisations for a few main reasons:

  1. If this organisation fails, the whole economy will ‘fail’. Think of large banks that had to be rescued by the government in various countries.
  2. If any initiative in this organisation fails, we can keep it afloat by burning up money made by more successful endeavours in the organisation. Most large companies act this way, be it Google or less ‘succesful’ multinationals.
  3. This new initiative is the one thing that can save our organisation, so we went all in. If this fails, we’ll go bankrupt. Many organisations being here actually go bankrupt. There are exceptions of course (Angry Birds). But the worst examples cost lives because of cutting corners and pushing on at any cost.

Have you ever felt like being part of an organisation or Product that was on fire, didn’t have (enough) lifeboats, yet still pushed on at full speed towards an area full of large objects that will very likely break you?

A ship that was ill equipped with lifeboats was sailed, on fire, through an iceberg infested area at full speed. 

The Titanic Was On Fire For Days Before The Iceberg Hit

Yes, I’m talking about the Titanic. Bet you didn’t know that in addition to being sunk by hitting an iceberg at full speed, it had been on fire since before they left shore.

There is an interesting parallel to many failing organisations here. I’m thinking of the feature factory crisis, churning out features at breakneck speed, thinking we can outrun our crisis. Ending up being sunk by the obstacles that we run into, because our ability to deal with these obstacles has detoriated to a state where we can no longer cope with a large setback.

The only way out is to immediately start investing in quality and the right approach to start delivering small chunks of value. Investigate the current product and features and removing all that is faulty, not used often and not realy meeting anyone’s needs. Potentially start over with a clean slate. But focus on quality moving forward. Both technical quality and product quality. Building the thing right, and making sure the right thing is being built.

It may come as no surprise that an iterative and incremental approach is very well suited to drive both feedback loops (right thing & right way) to set out a course and then course correct. A framework like Scrum can help immensely, when coupled to a thourough (lean) UX approach. Both help to focus, Scrum on building great products, while Lean UX helps with addressing the right customer needs.

Don’t be like the White Star Line. They built an unsinkable ship only to let it sail, on fire, at full speed into a bunch of icebergs. Proving that it was in fact not really unsinkable, as its special floatation features were damaged by said fire.

PS this post was inspired by great article about the Titanic revealing insights into its historical tragedy and how it could and should have been prevented. https://medium.com/dialogue-and-discourse/the-titanic-was-on-fire-for-days-before-the-iceberg-hit-94fa26471dfa

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