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Fail Fast, Learn Fast

My succinct summary of the Continuous Delivery book is "fail fast, learn fast". Pavan (former Go and Twist developer) and I have been testing this four-word phrase with people all over the CD continuum. So far everyone gets the importance of failing fast in the context of building, testing and releasing software but it usually requires a short explanation.
A few weeks ago, Pavan and I sat on a plane coming back from a customer visit with Ancestry. We spent most of the flight trying to figure out how to replace Go's current tagline. We worked it from every angle and as we tried coming up with something based on the "fail fast, learn fast" phrase, we started talking about other life situations where this concept applies. Pavan liked an anecdote I shared. In fact, unbeknownst to me, he’s been "testing" the anecdote. This morning he was very excited to tell me that even his mothergot it and that I should share it:

When I was a kid and wanted to go play with my friends my mom would always say, "you may go once your room is clean" - well, she would say it in Chinese. My room was a consistent mess so I knew that I would need to do quite a bit of work to get it in a state where she'd let me go. My strategy was to do just enough work and then pull her in so she could pass or fail the tidiness.

So I'd start by shoving everything into my closet, under the bed, and on each bookshelf. My mom never bought into it. She'd tell me to clear all of those places and put things where they belong. I'd try again. And again. And again. After about 10 attempts she'd finally say, "looks good, be home by dinner".

In hindsight, with every attempt, my mom taught me what she wanted to see and gave me course corrections. If I didn’t constantly bring her in then I ran the risk of spending hours working on things that didn’t matter to her. For example, she’d still nod her approval if I Ieft the room dusty but toys and books in my dresser would never let me out of the house.

I failed fast and learnt faster. Thank you, Mom**.

Dan Gilmer on how, in a single day, Ancestry used Go to create 40 release candidates which resulted in 5 production releases.


* Pavan's mother was raised in a South Indian village, is college educated, has never been in IT, and lives in South Bangalore.

** Mom and me


Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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