A solution is the opposite of a quick fix. Real solutions are both hard to find and implement, particularly in fast-paced and highly dynamic environments such as startups.
As keeping technical and organizational debts low is not their primary focus, they better spend their limited resources to fathom their market potential and their scalability, produce presentable demonstrators and proofs-of-concepts: show measurable progress.
However, exclusively working with the quick-fix mindset piles up hidden technical and organizational debt, and little by little, each compromise and each shortcut to move faster or be cost-efficient builds-up to an enormous heap of neglect. True, quick fixes keep the game going — until the next iteration, prototype, release, demonstration, a customer visit, or audit — while things keep breaking in the background. Just then, at the most inconvenient moment, the unavoidable happens, and the accrued lie bare for everyone to see. For example, fundamental technical limitations preventing the reaching of target specifications, or the chosen architecture or business model cannot be scaled, or there is no real customer interest. Needless to say, at this point, the financials do not allow a continuation or only allow it under very unfavorable conditions. It then so happens that the funding side cuts their losses with more or less of a shrug, and discontinues an otherwise high-potential business and an excellent team due to their accrued hidden debt.
“Fail fast” is what startups are supposed to do; some say, that is what they are here for. I surmise that excellent teams can do better than that.
Implementing solutions to keep the debt low, at first sight, sounds like a method for unnecessarily delaying “fail fast”: the stabilization of a situation outside the financial planning and control horizon. It even seems like an excellent way to spend money on luxury problems. The hardships caused by solving put additional strain on the team and thereby raise the chance for early failure, so why do it at all?
Because solutions also increase the chances for a well-built business on top of a solid technological foundation, or a well-built technology serving a real business need. A low debt through implementing solutions allows decision-makers to rearrange their priorities under less pressure than under the heavy load of debt. It renders unnecessary pretense (a.k.a. “fake it until you make it”) and other high-risk behavior obsolete and provides breathing room for more balanced and relatively (stress-)free decision-making.
Of course, as with all useful heuristics, putting them to the extreme, in this case, endlessly and costly implementing solutions of yet unproven problems leads to a very different set of difficulties, which will be topic of a follow-up story.