Why you probably shouldn’t move fast and break things?

25th Oct 2015
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There’s a thing with us entrepreneurs. We like to model what successful people have done.

After all, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. Conventional wisdom states that we should learn from other people’s mistakes/success.

The problem is, it doesn’t work all the time. Case in point, the famous Facebook mantra -- “Move fast and break things.”


Image credit "ShutterStock"

What’s the problem with moving fast and breaking things?

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where you run a B2B startup. You offer real-time email and SMS services for businesses. Since you believe in the move fast and break things philosophy, due to one of the features you rolled out and your tests code coverage being not comprehensive, the SMS service got affected and most SMS got delayed.

Now, imagine you as a business using the service to let customers know of a time sensitive offer and your SMS gets delivered after the offer ran out.

Doesn’t look good, does it?

The point is, move fast and break things works, but not always.

You have to ensure that customers who rely on your business, should not be negatively affected by your good intentions to innovate and move fast.

This is not just true for B2B businesses. There are several B2C businesses where monetary transaction takes place. They trust you with their money and expect you to fulfill the promise at your end.

There’s a recent trend with many startups. I even wrote about one recently.

Startups have started focusing on expanding their business without paying attention to basic business practices. The model goes like this

  • Start a startup
  • Have some IIT/IIM people as founders
  • Raise VC money
  • Use some vanity metrics for fundraising
  • Expand the business extremely fast without focusing on customer experience
  • Raise more money

While it’s great to see startup culture booming, it’s sad to see startups forgetting that they should be building a business and not chasing just market share.

Nokia had a huge market share in India. Now how many people have a Nokia phone?

It’s not about getting the biggest share of the pie. It’s mostly about having a piece of the pie and serving that segment well. Once you have established good business processes and have figured out ways to make money without compromising on customer experience, expand to bigger markets.

What you can do if you really want to move fast and break things

Understand which part of your product you can afford to break.

Imagine you are a ticket booking portal and I book a flight ticket for Rs 5,000 using my credit card and you accidently bill me Rs 50,000. Now that’s not going to sit well with me.

Maybe I’d be fine if some of the experimental features like street view or 3D view of the place didn’t work.

If you are a SAAS product, create a free or low priced tired plan. If you are in the B2C market and handle monetary transactions, give them a deep discount and segment them into early adopter groups.

Now you have a group of people who are willing to be part of your rapid iteration environment because you have offered them a win-win situation -- or in ‘Godfather’ terms, given them “an offer they can’t refuse.”

Roll out experimental features to these segments of users and only once the features have stabilized, roll it out to others.

Moving fast and breaking things isn’t just confined to engineering

A lot of people assume the strategy is only applicable for writing code and not for other functions.

It could be applicable for just about any customer facing function.

Did your marketing landing page promise 12-hour delivery, but the operations team was not aware of it and delivery took 24 hours?

Moving fast applies to any new commitment you make -- whether it is adding new features to your product or a promise you make via your website copy. Breaking them means you have failed to deliver on your promise.

As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we deliver on our promise. This will help more people adopt products from new businesses and not just from established players.

Even Facebook has gone back from their original motto of move fast and break things to “move fast on stable infra”.

So before we take to heart what worked for someone else, let’s carefully evaluate if it’ll work for us. And then work towards scaling our business.

Forget minimum viable product that our engineers can build and let us build a minimum usable product for the customer -- even if it means a smaller feature set.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory)

About the Author:

Adarsh Thampy is the Co-founder and CEO of LeadFerry, a data-driven marketing platform. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on twitter @conversionchamp.)

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