Fail Fast: A Guide To Iterative Strategic Planning And Testing

By Lauren |

(Originally posted on Young Entrepreneur, by Lauren Perkins)

As 2011 speeds to its conclusion, now is the time to reflect on your company’s current performance and establish priorities moving into 2012. In order to set the stage for a productive year, it’s important to think about your top objectives as well as some tactical ways that you can test them. These two components should be the foundation for your strategic plan and execution roadmap.

In order to get a startup off its feet, it’s essential to quickly identify and course correct when something isn’t working. This is the core of the #failfast mentality. It can be hard to predict what’s going to evoke a response from your target audience, so why not mix it up and commit to trying new tactics until something works?

Fail Fast is a focused process, for those with a sense of urgency and the need to move swiftly from strategy to execution. You don’t want to continue investing time and money into something that isn’t working for your company. Sometimes you just need to try different things – if one thing doesn’t work or isn’t gaining momentum the way you think it should, then move on and test out your next strategy or tactic.

This tactic sounds simple enough to implement, but in order for it to be effective you must be able to realize when things aren’t working. If you catch a failure early, it’s much less likely to cause detrimental and irreversible damage to your company. If you don’t fail quickly, then congratulations! You’ve gained traction and you’re succeeding. Keep moving forward with the tactic that you tested.

So how can you put the Fail Fast mentality to work in your company? Follow the process below as part of your 2012 strategic planning process.

  • Determine and define your top 3 business objectives for Q1 2012
  • Choose one of the three objectives that will have the biggest, measureable impact on your business performance (awareness, leads, sales, etc)
  • Define Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for the chosen objective
  • Develop a list of tactics that are specific and easy to implement
  • Prioritize your list of tactics in the order you will deploy them with the tactics that you expect will have the largest and/or fast impact on the chosen objective
  • Begin the #FailFast testing process with the first tactic on your list
  • Track the tactic’s performance against the KPI’s set earlier in the process
    If the tactic proves to have a positive effect on the KPI, look for ways to build this tactic into your regular business practice and repeat.

  • If you are seeing no movement, assess whether the KPI’s you selected were the right benchmarks
  • Adjust the positioning or execution of selected tactic and test again
  • Still no traction? #FailFast and move on to the next tactic in your deployment list

Haven’t started the strategic planning process for 2012? No worries, many of you are probably hustling to close the year out right. This process is great for the procrastinator in all of us or a busy founder that needs to work quickly to reach important business and marketing objectives. If you use this process to plan for the New Year, then you’re setting yourself up for success.

Good luck!

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