Launching a Successful Pilot

Launching a new feature or initiative is an exciting experience. There’s a strong temptation to dive in headfirst and commit wholeheartedly.

But before you do, we recommend pausing a beat to consider launching a pilot first. Pilots are the perfect way to test your new plan, work out the kinks, and ultimately increase its effectiveness if you decide to roll it out to the entire organization.

The Purpose Behind Pilots

When teaching a child to ride a bike, you don’t simply put them in the seat and let go. Unfamiliar with this new experience, the child is likely going to crash. Instead, you incrementally work up with training wheels, guidance, and a steady hand. The new rider works out the kinks, finds their balance, and soon is cruising around like a pro.

That’s why pilots are important. By experimenting with a smaller group of people, you can identify what works and what doesn’t in a small, controlled environment. Through ongoing feedback, you’re able to make continuous improvements until it’s ready to launch company-wide.

How to Pilot New Features

1. Select the test group. Identify a few teams or departments, ideally comprised of tech-savvy individuals (IT workers are great for this exercise), to serve as your pilot team. It’s best if these groups are led by open-minded managers with experience implementing new processes.

2. Launch the feature. Explain the purpose of the pilot and demonstrate what the feature is meant to do. Establish goals and metrics that will determine if the pilot is a success or failure. Continually encourage your pilot group to use the feature, and provide guidance and clarity if issues arise. Encourage your pilot groups to customize their experience to an extent – they may discover “hacks” or tweaks to make the process simpler or more effective.

3. Collect feedback. Use focus groups, pulse surveys, and our feedback feature to gather opinions about the new implementation. Understand the employees’ starting point (what struggles they encountered that caused you to pilot the new feature). Identify dates when feedback will be gathered and when the pilot will end. In your final session, present your findings to leadership and make a decision about how to proceed. What tweaks were made during the pilot process? Did employees push back against or resist the new feature?

Make a final decision about whether the new feature will be implemented. If so, prepare an announcement plan. If not, consider why the pilot failed and how you can better identify potential new features in the future.