A couple of years ago, I sat in a marketing meeting with a client that had just gone through a major pivot. They were moving from an established product to a fresh way of doing business. Everything was different: new logo, new message, new leadership, a new vision for the enterprise. But what was the same?
Well, the buyer was the same. That’s a problem. Those imaginary leads who live on the cutting edge of HR and recruiting weren’t materializing. The reputation of the brand didn’t move, either. And while some leadership was new, the executive team largely remained the same. The company’s pivotal efforts were unrewarded.
Now, software has a long sales cycle. You invest energy and action into product development, marketing, sales enablement, customer success, and all the other tedious functions of a company so that you reap the rewards in 36 months. And it’s a matter of leadership: can with you withstand the pain of change in those early months, and can you financially afford to keep going?
And there’s the question of getting it wrong. Just because you have a hot take doesn’t mean it’s going to sell — or even that it’s a unique offering. These HR technology companies are myopic. You would think that businesses take some time and test out new ideas before they spend a lot of money, and some do, but most don’t. Even mature ones. There’s a hedonic treadmill, and HR technology companies feel pressured to keep up with the competitors and look good doing it.
“You’re a talent company? So are we. Look at our new platform.”
And there’s a moment when you discover your buyer isn’t buying what you’re selling, and you’ve burnt through your emotional and reputational capital. It’s a painful lesson. That’s when I’m often called into a room to help brainstorm new ideas.
So, in that period where my client was struggling and it had yet to see any return on its development and marketing investment, I offered guidance: you can keep pouring money into marketing campaigns and making toolkits for your sales team, or you can stop right now and work collaboratively with sales and engineering to ask better questions.
That’s when I introduced the concept of the premortem:
Take 90 seconds. Ask yourself why this relaunch has failed. Let’s compare the answers on our team and see what we learn. Then let’s ask some trusted customers why this pivot fell flat.
Well, that went over like a lead balloon. Nobody wanted to talk about failure because, my god, am I nuts? In a room with peers and colleagues? Also, what the eff is a premortem?! That sounds depressing. We want to talk about success!
That’s when I knew my future. I walked away from that client shortly after that and doubled-down on GlitchPath, my premortem software, which sometimes still gets the same general reaction.
Collaborative failure platform? Yes, okay, that’s great for someone else. But over here, we want solutions. And quit telling me that the person closest to the problem is the one with answers. I don’t want to fix things. If I knew how to fix it, I’d do it. I want to pay you to fix things.
Man, this is why I hated working in HR. Some people are so lazy and disengaged.
But there are people out there who see systemic problems at their companies and want to raise their hand — or wave a red flag — and stop the insanity. I know this because, after the meeting with my client, I was pulled aside and asked for tips and tools to help make the post-pivot business case for change.
GlitchPath is still committed to creating a platform to help people beat failure at work and in life. We’re obsessed with helping people communicate more effectively and have less drama in their lives. And, personally, I’m all about solving problems early instead of waiting until things fail.
If we make you successful, that’s great. You seem like a nice person who deserves happiness. But if we make you smarter and help you fight back against bureaucracy and stupid problems at work, even better.
So I’m still working on the premortem along with a more thoughtful way to help you find solutions. If you are disengaged and burned out, and if you’re tired of working with people who keep screwing up your career plans, I’m pivoting slightly and will have something for you and your colleagues soon.