To Pivot, Persevere or Perish? That is the question.

Daniel Bentes
Jun 14, 2018 · 3 min read

When building and running products there are times when you need to put feelings aside and look objectively and thoroughly at your product and/or business model in order to decide which direction to take next.

It usually starts when these existential, or fundamental, questions are asked:

  • Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original strategic hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a major change?
  • Are we approaching the wrong early adopters or customer segments?
  • Are we approaching the wrong problems?

This process is often called “To Pivot, Persevere or Perish” and usually ends with a decision meeting where the decision maker in charge of the product in question chooses the way forward.

This decision is not taken lightly and a decision usually needs to take into consideration implications and consequences for the affected people working on the product, existing customers and company commitments.

Before a decision is taken, all options must be clearly outlined and documented by the right people involved in researching available options.

But what does it mean to Pivot, Persevere or Perish?

To Pivot, Persevere or Perish - a hard choice to make.

What does it mean to pivot?

The decision to pivot requires a clear-eyed and objective mindset.

A pivot is a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, business model and engine of growth.

There are 5 major ways to pivot:

  • Zoom-in. A single feature becomes the whole product
  • Zoom-out. The whole product becomes a single feature
  • Customer segment. Good product, bad customer segment
  • Customer need. Repositioning, or a complete new product
  • Platform. Change from an application to a platform, or vice versa

5 additional reasons that may impact the reason/way to pivot:

  • Business architecture. High margin, low volume VS Low margin, high volume
  • Value capture. Changes in revenue model
  • Engine of growth. Picking how to growth: viral, sticky and paid
  • Channel. How the product is delivered to customers
  • Technology. New technology improves competitiveness

What does it mean to persevere?

To persevere means you stay the course on the vision and strategy, but still address the problems currently surfaced.

To persevere might mean doing things differently, re-scope deliveries or approach the problems from another angle. But the vision remains the same. At least until you learn that you need a new “Pivot, Persevere or Perish meeting” that decides otherwise.

What does it mean to perish?

Perish means just that. You’ve learned that you don’t have the means to continue, there is no product-market fit or that the product doesn’t fit with the company’s goals anymore. This means that you need to cut your losses and re-focus your resources on other things.

How to go about it?

My recommendation is to ask those fundamental questions regularly and revisit them with your team as often as necessary, but at least on a yearly basis.

Start by making a case for each option — Pivot, Persevere or Perish — outlining in as much details as possible:

  • Reasons from key stakeholders (from your product, commercial and engineering organisation)
  • Pros & Cons for each option
  • Consequences and implications for each option

Once you have documented and shared this with your leadership team. Its time to present the case and hold a decision meeting where the direction of your product will be decided. Next step is to agree on a plan and execute on it.

Good luck!

Daniel Bentes

Written by

Former software engineer, solution architect and product manager. Now strategist, working on building teams that build things.

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