Slamet Hendry


Failing fast

The past 12 months have been an interesting period. I left corporate job, took a break, and pursued building a product.

I had several ideas that I was interested and eventually I settled on developing digital marketing platform for small businesses. The specific problem space already had a few deep pocketed players, so that serves as market opportunity validation. I just had to find a differentiated go-to-market strategy that works for me.

I built a rough prototype quickly, showed it to some people and gathered some feedbacks. Based on potential users feedbacks, I adjusted the product roadmap and started building. I put in crazy hours, more than when I was in corporate. Learning as I built, I juggled priorities and wish list and in about four months, I had a minimum viable product ready.

And yet something bugged me on the technical side; under the hood, the MVP (minimum viable product) was badly fragile. I know MVP is meant to be put together as soon as possible, but my goal was that viable = sustainable. I did not have outside investor and I had enough runway, so I decided to rewrite the platform. That was a tough decision, but in the end, I was super glad I did it.

Then I applied for Google login authorised app status and this took longer than I envisioned due to my shortsightedness. (The Google Cloud Trust and Security Team was very patient with me. Thank you folks!) Developing the marketing content and marketing video also took more time than I planned.

All done, I soft-launched. And boy was I surprised with the things that broke down when new users tried the platform, but I fixed them quickly and I had not had any problem again, so far.

The platform was running well. On technical side, it seems performant and sustainable.

Despite all that, I decided to shutdown the platform.

It is a long story, but to keep it short, let's say it is because I do not see “product-market fit” – at this time – with what I wanted to do. This conclusion is not ideal, but the personal journey has been rewarding.

Let me explain from the perspective of “Fail Fast, Fail Often” – as one of the authors, Ryan Babineaux outlined in 5 Tips to Succeed by Failing Fast.

  1. Try things like a beginner, not an expert
  2. Go see for yourself
  3. Get going with the smallest investment
  4. Be ready to change course
  5. Do things badly as fast as you can

I did all those.

And in the process, I learned a ton. And I had fun. I think I succeeded in “failing fast”, so it is a happy conclusion for me, at least for now.

All things considered, I am truly blessed to have had this opportunity. And now, on to the next thing.

Photo: Pexels


Related: If you are into tech stack, I wrote about the stack that I used here.

Credit belongs to ..

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

~ Teddy Roosevelt, from the “Citizenship In A Republic” speech, April 23, 1910

#quotes #learningorg

We are living code

“We are living code. When you look at the human brain, our ‘computing centers,’ so to speak, you see a lot of coding. We run on scripts, arguments, memories, value systems, and beliefs that are programmed by our interactions with people and our experiences navigating the world.

For the most part, we don’t have a say in how we are programmed until we experience larger shifts in adulthood. Later in life, we are able to exercise individual agency more directly, and ask ourselves: ‘What data sets are you downloading?’ Behavior is coded by a variety of stimuli and responses, and human technology is by far the most advanced technology we have.”

~ Patrycja Slawuta

#quotes #learningorg

How hard can it be?

I am working on a personal project and I need a dashboard to analyse my data that is hosted in the cloud. So I thought, “how hard can it be” to set up my own dashboard server, given that I developed and ran my own chatbot server last year?

Not as easy as I thought, but too late. Eventually, I did it. Yay!

And it got me into a reflective mode.

“How hard can it be?” is a question that, depending on context and tone of voice, can have side effect. Use with care.

If we utter it to someone more junior or less experienced, please be kind not to offend the receiver or damage his/her self-confidence. If the receiver is a subject matter expert in the “it”, check first that we know the subject well enough so we don't look like a fool.

Probably it is better to ask “what does it take to accomplish it?” We move the discussion toward analysis and effort estimation, so it is more constructive and builds up morale.

But “how hard can it be?” is not to be avoided altogether, especially if asked to ourselves. If we actually do not know what it takes to accomplish “it” and we are curious to know, then “how hard can it be?” is a challenge to spur us into action rather than analysis paralysis.

“How hard can it be?” I don't know. Let's find out.

Caveat emptor. In life, there are always things to do and competing priorities. Chasing after “how hard can it be?” ought to be weighed in light of other priorities. Proceed with care.

And once we find out how hard it can be, we need to be willing to admit if we are wrong. Because despite not knowing the answer to “what does it take to accomplish it?”, we typically ask “how hard can it be?” with some preconceived assumption of “how hard” it is. And once we do “it”, we eventually find out “how hard” it is – which can be easier or harder than our assumption.

And that is okay if we are wrong. The important part is that we get “it” done and learn what it takes to accomplish “it”.

Have a nice day.


Collective strength

Our muscle is a complex construction that is very fine-tuned. My muscle would ache in different place and in different way depending on the extended exercise I do. The keyword here is “extended” – light and short exercise would not reveal the difference.

For example, running 10 km at 6 min/km has a different impact from running 10 km at 7.5 min/km which has different impact from walking at 10 min/km. The pain from the walk is no less than the slow run nor the fast run, but different.

Likewise in leading a team, different objective and pace will put stress in different place in the team. As a leader, it is my role to be sensitive to each of my team members and to give the right kind of help to the individual who needs help and to push the individual who can handle more difficult challenge. I avoid leading with “one-size fits all” approach.

The team is collectively stronger when I recognise and appreciate the diversity and optimise it accordingly.



“The most effective leaders I know are all relearners.

You have learners, unlearners, and relearners.

Most folks stop at learning. A fraction go on to unlearn what they learned, but stop there. This isn't an actual improvement until they start relearning.”

~ Channing Allen

#quotes #learningorg

Invest in yourself

“There's one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. ... Nobody can take away what you've got in yourself—and everybody has potential they haven't used yet. If you can increase your potential 10%, 20% or 30% by enhancing your talents, they can't tax it away. Inflation can't take it from you. You have it the rest of your life.”

~ Warren Buffett

Source: Forbes

#quotes #learningorg

Shop Class as Soulcraft

“Those who work in an office often feel that, despite the proliferation of contrived metrics they must meet, their job lacks objective standards of the sort provided by, for example, a carpenter's level, and that as a result there is something arbitrary in the dispensing of credit and blame.”

“Corporations portray themselves as results-based and performance-oriented. But where there isn't anything material being produced, objective standards for job performance are hard to come by.”

“Failures often force you to ask a favor of someone else ... Such an experience of dependence makes you humble, and grateful.”

~ Matthew B. Crawford

#quotes #learningorg

Note: “Shop Class as Soulcraft” was Matthew's first book. He also wrote other books.

10 Innovation Proverbs for Leaders

I received this from Joyce Wycoff a long time ago. It's interesting that what many people claim as “innovation” would not qualify as innovation according to below.

  1. PEOPLE do innovation.
  2. Innovation means doing something that has not been done before. By definition there is risk involved. No risk; no innovation.
  3. Innovation is a win-win process. It creates new value for the customer and the organization.
  4. Innovation is a team sport. Teams are built around a common objective and trust.
  5. Innovation requires risk. Risk-taking requires trust. Trust requires honesty and openness.
  6. Innovation requires energy. Energy comes from challenges that excite the imagination.
  7. Innovation is about creating the future. Cost-cutting and downsizing are about fixing the past.
  8. Innovation is not just a rah-rah word or fad. It is an investment in the future that requires new processes, time, energy, commitment and resources.
  9. Innovation requires new information — from co-workers, customers, suppliers, competitors and from the world.
  10. Innovation requires time — time to think, time to tinker, time to talk about possibilities and ideas. Down-to-the-second controls can kill innovation.

by Joyce Wycoff

#learningorg #design

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.” Henry Miller


Building a learning organisation

This post is my notes for a talk that I recently gave at a webinar organised by a friend.

Photo: Unsplash

I learned about learning organisation from Peter Senge's book – The Fifth Discipline – a long time ago. “A learning organisation is a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.”

In the book, he talked about five characteristics of learning organisation: Systems thinking, Personal mastery, Mental models, Shared vision, and Team learning.

Here, I share my lessons learned of the above characteristics from a different angle: – Feedback loop – Diversity – Lateral development – Body of knowledge – Continuous learning

An organisation is “a group of people who work together in an organised way for a shared purpose.” (Cambridge Dictionary) So let's discuss from two perspectives, i.e. individual members perspective and group/team perspective.

Feedback loop


Ask for feedback:

Without feedback, we will not know what goes well and what needs to be improved. Most companies I know have a review mechanism between us and our boss. And aside from our boss, we need to ask for constructive feedback from our team members, if we are team leaders. We can also ask for feedback from our peers.

Listen to understand:

We need to try to understand the feedback giver's perspective why he/she perceives us in a certain way that led to the feedback he/she gives us.

We may disagree with some of the feedbacks and that is okay. Despite our intentions, others may interpret our actions or results differently from what we envision. The point is to get feedback in order to know how others perceive us and why.

Avoid being defensive and attacking the feedback giver or he/she will stop giving feedback.


Have regular one-on-one:

We need to facilitate the feedback mechanism and one of the ways is to have one-on-one meeting between team leader and individual team members.

We are always busy and urgent tasks pile up unpredictably. If we wait until we are not busy, one-on-one can be forgotten. One-on-one is important, so I suggest we schedule regular one-on-one in advance between team leader and team members. It is easy to set it up for one year at the beginning of the year. We can always change the schedule if needed, but we need to commit to have it.

In my opinion, this is the responsibility of the team leader to schedule this and ensure it happens.

Listen to your “customers”:

We have many stakeholders to please and it is impossible to please all of them all the time. We need to focus on our high priority “customer” (whoever we define as customer amongst our stakeholders) and listen to their feedback.

In some organisation, the “customer” is very obvious. In others, this may be more complicated. The “customer” may even change, despite our team not changing anything. In big companies, sometimes this is influenced by company dynamics.

And our customer's needs can change over time, so we need to always check. When our team members answer “we have always done it this way”, we need to check if the “way” still matches what the “customer” needs.



Get to know and learn from others different from us:

If we hang out only with people very similar to ourselves, we may not learn many new things.

People with different interests learn different things and so when we hang out with diverse group of people, then we discover things they learn which are different from what we typically would have learned.

Different people has different perspective or approach to solving a given problem. When we are stuck at a problem, talking to someone with a different perspective sometimes helps us understand the problem in a different light and discover the solution.

Treat others with respect:

Eventually, misunderstanding or miscommunication can happen. Conflict is a natural course of life when there are more than one people. If we manage conflict professionally and resolve it in trustring manner, the team can come out stronger at the end of it.


Recruit for skill but plan diversity in the recruiting pipeline:

We need to understand the team's diversity profile. And when we have a vacancy we need to fill, try to recruit from places that can complement / enrich the diverstiy. The objective is to find a diverse pool of candidates. This may mean that we need to look in different universities, different job boards, etc.

Ultimately, we select based on skill, whether the candidates can do the job well. But if we have several candidates that can potentially do the job well, we have the option to recruit the candidate that can make our team more diverse.

Respect the diversity in the team:

Diverse group of people have diverse perceptions which leads to diverse reactions. We cannot assume an activity or approach that the majority likes will be liked by the minority in the team. If we put it to a vote, the majority will keep bulldozing the minority and eventually those in minority will quit. We need to find a balanced approach that respects the diverse team members.

Lateral development


Take on new challenges:

We need to step out of our comfort zone and take on new challenges. This could be additional responsibilities, new projects, etc.

Grow our career laterally:

Promotion is not the only way to grow a career. As individuals, we can grow by moving laterally, e.g. change team, change role, etc. This enriches your skill base and strengthens your CV / curriculum vitae.

The higher we go up in the organisation structure, the more diverse the skills we need. If we never grow our career laterally, our skill may not develop diversely enough.


Assign people to also work outside their current domain:

This was inspired by Google’s “20% project.” I call this approach the 80/20 project. (20% is just figuratively speaking; the point is majority and minority of the time.) In this case we assign a team member some role / responsibility outside of his/her team. The majority of the time, the team members work on their main job and then for the rest of the time, they work on a project / role for another team or another domain. The objective is to assign the team member to something different where he/she can acquire new skill.

Take the risk to move / rotate people:

Move / rotate people to a different team / department when there is a vacancy. Having people in the team who have done many roles in the company strengthens the talent base. You develop more people at a given skill, because a given job has been filled by many people who have rotated through it over the years.

If we do the 80/20 approach, then people who have done the 80/20 are good candidates for job rotation. Hopefully, the 80/20 assignment is the domain where they will rotate into. But even if not always the case, people who do the 80/20 show adaptiveness already and hopefully are better equipped to pick up new skills at the new roles they are rotating into.

Body of knowledge


Leave a legacy of documented knowledge:

A long time ago I learned the motto: “If it is not well documented, it does not exist.” We need to document our work / process so that others can understand and take over from us, for example, if we become ill or on a long vacation.

Particularly in software development, years after a piece of code goes live it can have issues. If nobody can understand how to fix it or make changes to it due to missing or poor documentation, there is a risk that it will be thrown away, because it can be quicker for the maintenance team to rewrite the program, rather than fixing a difficult to maintain code.

This topic is not limited just to computer program. In business processes, this is also prevalent. Teams may lose the knowledge why or how something is done a certain way due to lack of business process documentation. So let's document our work well and leave a good legacy.

Share our knowledge with other team members:

We know about clubs (e.g. photography club, etc), community of practice, etc. These are good forums to share our knowledge to others. Sharing knowledge benefits both the receiver and the giver.

Ensure our documentations are well referenced and properly used. If we make good documentations, but nobody knows about it nor uses it, then we are not getting the value we aim for.


Agree on documentation guideline and common knowledge repository:

Non-existent or poor documentation can be the achilles heel of a good team. There is no “one right way” to do it, but it is more important this is done consistently and maintained properly.

Different team will have different guideline and preferences. The important point is that everybody participates consistently. Knowedge management system and learning management system are useful tools, but they are just tools. Without strong documentation culture and learning culture, the tools cannot deliver the maximum benefits.

Define a knowledge handover process:

Organisational knowledge can be (and is often) lost when someone leaves the company (or even when the person changes team / department). We ought to define the knowledge handover process to explicitly manage knowledge retention and transfer when someone moves to another team or leaves the company.

Continuous learning


Learn new topics / skills:

We need to always learn about new topics. If we do not learn about new topics, we can be left behind.

At the same time, we need to find our passion and aim for T-shape. On topics / skills that we are passionate about, we need to continuously improve ourselves so we become experts at them.

Invest personal time and effort:

Learn on our own. Set up personal project with defined goal to learn a new skill / knowledge. (For example, we may have built a website using PHP in the past; now try redoing it using Go or Clojure, etc.) Learn by doing.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucius


Experiment new practice / process:

Start with something small and quickly measurable whether we succeed or fail (“fail fast”). For example, start with only one small team or one small project. Once the capability and experience is in place, then we expand the scope and scale gradually.

Be mindful of the team we experiment with the new practice we want to start. Avoid one-size-fits-all approach. Different teams have different propensity to being “commando, infantry, or military police.”

“Whether invading countries or markets, the first wave of troops to see battle are the commandos. ... The infantry are the people who hit the beach en masse and slog out the early victory, building on the start given them by the commandos. ... The military police aren’t troops at all but police.” Robert Cringely, Accidental Empires

Balance short term challenge and long term growth:

The nature of experiment is that it can yield less result as hoped for or even fail completely. There is a risk of productivity hit. And we are busy to start with, so we may make the team worse off, if this does not work as well as hoped for.

On the other side of the coin, if we do not master the new skill / process, it can be risky as well. The world around us continue to change and I think it is better to initiate the change from within, before the change is forced on us. We need to push our team for continuous learning.

Let's assume, hypothetically, that it is possible for our team to grow better this week than the previous week, and next week is better than this week. And on and on, consistently week after week.


Compounded growth of 1%

Here, 1% is just an illustration – the important point is the consistency. Consistent growth, even small, adds up.



Learning organisation is not a destination. We do not build a learning organisation and say “It is done, now we can stop.” It is a continuous process.

Similar to gardening, after we work hard to build a beautiful garden, the work does not stop there. We must tend the garden continuously or else the garden will be beautiful no more.

Learning organisation is a journey. “A learning organisation is a company that facilitates the learning of its members and CONTINUOUSLY TRANSFORMS itself.” If we stop transforming, we stop being a learning organisation.

And therein lies our motivation to be a learning organisation:

A learning organisation is an adaptive organisation.