A crisis can certainly send shockwaves through your startup. Knowing how to deal with, but more importantly to learn from, a crisis will help ensure that your business survives and prevents problems down the road. This section will help you navigate any problem facing your business.
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When something goes badly in your company, for many the initial instinct is to keep things under wraps as much as possible to avoid freaking everyone out. I would argue that it is better to acknowledge the crisis and use it to your advantage. Change is hard to bring to an organization and a time of crisis is often a perfect time to make some changes that you have wanted to make for a while. It creates a perfect backdrop and context for doing that.
I HATE LOSING. I hate it. I really, really, really hate it. It chaps my hide. It rips at my core. I don’t get over it easily. I lose sleep. I fucking hate losing. It’s not so much the actual outcome that I hate – it’s the process. The fact that I lost when I should have won. I think about it for months, often years. But I embrace losing. It is how I learn. I relive the moment so many times over in my mind wondering if I could have done this differently or if I shouldn’t have said or done this or that. I talk to trusted sources about it. I ask for feedback. I hate losing. I don’t want to lose next time.
It’s never too late to start applying five whys, even if you’re saddled with zillions of lines of legacy code. Just start asking why whenever you find a problem—you’ll automatically start fixing the 20% of underlying issues that cause 80% of your problems. Five whys was first discovered by Toyota—if it can work for cars, it can work for you.
Get started with five whys by applying it to a specific team with a specific problem. Select a five whys master to conduct a post mortem with everyone who was involved in the problem. Email the results of the analysis to the whole company. Repeatedly applying five whys at IMVU created a startup immune system that let our developers go faster by reducing mistakes.
Whenever you find a defect, ask why five times to discover the root cause of the problem. Then make corrections at every level of the analysis. By applying five whys whenever you find a defect, you will (1) uncover the human problems beneath technical problems and (2) build an immune system for your startup.