Pilots are perfect for problems

When faced with resistance to change, propose a pilot project.

This has been an invaluable instrument in my toolkit for most of my career and hence the reason I am writing about it again so soon after my recent post on this topic.

The concept is simple and so should the application.

Essentially, it is a shortened version of a typical project.

If you feel you have a viable idea or solution, test it, hence the reason I call these types of ideas “test solutions.”

I don’t know if they will solve the problem or issue and as such, I want to test them.

This also tells everyone involved in the project that we are here to do a test and we are not asserting that we believe this will be the solution 100%.

There are a few valuable features of a test pilot that need to be factored in the planning.

First, pilots should garner feedback and data from a small representative sample of the larger target audience.

The success of the pilot should not be determined by those doing the test.

This is a mistake I have seen several times whereby the pilot is simply deemed a success because those that propose the “test solution” want it to be so.

If you do a pilot, you must be comfortable with it failing and potentially not pursuing the idea.

That said, ideally even if the pilot fails, you can learn and revise your approach for a second iteration or better yet, get feedback at a mid-point and revise in real-time.

This can be partially achieved by doing lessons learned in real-time and making adjustments immediately based on what is learned.

Another valuable aspect of a pilot is the ability to validate assumptions.

A common flaw I have seen on many projects is to make assumptions that are just that.

If the assumptions are wrong, the project can fail.

Some of the most important assumptions to validate are those that involve some people doing a substantial amount of new work.

I never assume anything will be less work, this is also something I never say to anyone as if it does not manifest, you can lose credibility with the stakeholders.

Next, the pilot should place substantial emphasis on the end user in that it should be simple, intuitive, and effective.

Long-term success will depend heavily on the end user experience.

Another value of doing pilots is the ability to face known risks and mitigating by taking corrective action.

Even if the risks result in costs, the idea is to fail small before you fail big.

A good result from the pilot can be used in marketing to the larger audience and will lend well with building stakeholder confidence.

This is particularly true when you have data or testimonials to share.

By investing time and effort towards a pilot, you can increase your chances of success for a full deployment.

If you have a problem and a “test solution,” conduct a pilot and set yourself up for success.