Growth Hacking: The Ultimate Guide

Growth hacking is an extension of marketing with a creative approach to finding a way to grow business faster. Its main focus is unlocking huge growth quickly through rapid experimentation while testing as many ideas as possible.

Following this growth hacking framework, you will learn how to generate and prioritise, test and analyse ideas faster. Most experiments will fail, which is ok, but if you learn from failures, you can turn it around into a successful experiment.

“You only fail if you make the same mistake twice” – Someone

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Growth hacking encompasses multiple marketing branches which overlap.

Unlike traditional marketing, growth hacking is all about achieving huge growth in a short period. It’s a key strategy for startups and scale-up businesses, aiming to boost the customer base and reach desired goals faster.

Drawing from my hands-on journey in the field of growth hacking since 2015, I’m excited to share my unique understanding of growth marketing. My comprehensive approach to growth hacking has been honed over the years, influenced by a blend of valuable resources – including books, courses, podcasts, and videos – and invaluable insights gained from top growth hackers.

These resources have informed my understanding and been adapted and refined to align with my unique working style. I hope you can apply these tried-and-tested techniques effectively in your journey to unlocking growth.

Google Trends for “Growth Hacking” keyword search.

What is Growth Hacking?

“Growth hacking” is a term popularised by Sean Ellis, the author of “Hacking Growth” book, written in 2010. It’s a process of rapid experimentation across different marketing channels and product or service development to find a growth lever (the most effective way to grow a business). Growth hackers focus on increasing and engaging the user base of a business. They prioritise testing, data analysis, and iteration to drive customer acquisition, retention, and revenue.

Growth hacking (some people call it growth marketing) is a framework to take you from the drawing board to execution quickly, allowing rapid testing of new ideas to find winning strategies to scale. Growth hackers think outside the box and use data-driven insights to optimize their efforts.

Growth Hacking vs Traditional Marketing

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While traditional marketing focuses on medium to long-term brand awareness and acquisition, growth hacking is mostly about short-term, rapid growth during any funnel stage: awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral. The primary goal of growth hacking is to acquire as many users or customers as possible while spending as little as possible.

Growth hacking and traditional marketing are related but distinct approaches to driving business growth. Growth hacking is a more focused and agile method emphasising rapid experimentation and unconventional strategies. It leverages innovative marketing tactics, technological solutions, and data-driven insights to acquire, engage, and retain customers. Growth hackers often have strong technical and analytical backgrounds, allowing them to optimize their efforts based on data.

On the other hand, traditional or digital marketing is a broader discipline that covers various activities to promote, sell, and distribute a product or service to customers. It includes traditional marketing techniques like advertising, public relations (PR), content creation and digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimization, social media management and email marketing. While marketing also seeks to drive growth, it focuses on building brand awareness, generating demand, and nurturing customer relationships rather than the rapid experimentation and agile approach characteristic of growth hacking.

Agile Planning

Objectives of Growth Hacking

  • Bridge the gap between product and marketing by effectively showcasing the product’s or service’s value to customers on the website.
  • Leverage rapid experimentation to test ideas across the entire customer journey, particularly within the product team, focusing on essential growth levers such as acquisition, onboarding, upselling, and retention.
  • Collect and analyze comprehensive data to identify the North Star Metric and align the growth strategy accordingly.
  • Encourage a fearless approach to experimentation, embracing failure as an opportunity to learn and adapt quickly.

3 Phases Before Starting Growth Hacking

  1. Establish a dedicated growth team to drive and monitor growth initiatives (more on this later).
  2. Thoroughly map out the customer journey to understand the different touchpoints and interactions.
  3. Identify and leverage all potential growth channels to maximize the impact of growth hacking efforts.

How to Succeed in Growth Hacking

  • Collect all available data to inform decision-making and strategy. Aim to dig deep every day in the morning while still fresh.
  • Be passionate and believe in each idea, encouraging a growth-oriented mindset.
  • Set challenging goals, aiming for a 70% likelihood of achieving them.
  • Empower someone from the team who has been given the influence to make a final decision if the growth team can’t decide or there is a split opinion.
  • Allow the growth experiments to impact any part of the business: any customer journey touchpoint. Most often, this is blocked by developers or knowledge gaps.
  • Adapt a never-ending circle of how the department operates – not just done once.

Never-ending Circle

  • Define Goals (Objective) to guide growth initiatives.
  • Generate Ideas to achieve the goal (objective). It has to reflect the customer journey, marketing funnel, or product life cycle.
  • Prioritize Ideas using the ICE (Impact, Confidence and Ease) scoring model.
  • Run experiments in 1-2 week sprints.
  • Collect Data to evaluate the performance.
  • Analyze & Optimise strategies based on data insights.

Repeat (go back to the top).

Simplify for Success

  1. Keep teams small for increased agility and efficiency.
  2. Document only as necessary to streamline processes.
  3. Limit meetings or make them short.
  4. Centralize communication and documentation for clarity.
  5. Embrace autonomy and limit revisions – if the team can’t decide on the idea to run, one person should be able to decide.
  6. Prioritize simple ideas over perfection. We can always optimize later.
  7. Identify personal knowledge gaps and strive for continuous learning and improvement.

Growth Experimentation Framework

3 Layers of Experiments

This framework aims to determine the preferences of different audience segments, such as whether they value pricing or time savings more. By understanding these preferences, you can create tailored messages, offers, and customer experiences for each prospect or customer.

We can go through 3 layers in depth:

  1. Channel or tactic assessment: Check how well certain channels or tactics (like email marketing or paid ads) impact conversions.
  2. Optimizing offers or campaigns: Find out which offers or campaigns significantly increase conversions.
  3. Personalise to tailor the message: Adjust messages to suit individual customers or audience segments, making them more relevant and engaging.

Running Growth Sprints

Initially, start with 2-week sprints to lay the foundation and onboard MarTech tools – transition to 1-week sprints for faster learning and growth as soon as possible.

Submit and collect growth tactics and ideas to execute the growth roadmap using a sprint-based approach.

Experiments & Tasks

  • Generate new ideas weekly from the growth team, other departments, and customers.
  • Test ideas in the sprint.
  • Collect data, evaluate against goals and make informed decisions.

Repeat the process for continuous improvement.

Purpose and Agenda of Each Growth Meeting

Sprint Review/Retros (30-60 mins)

Share what went well and what you should continue doing. Address questions & feedback from the team.

Sprint Planning and Kick-off (30-60 mins)
Agenda (the team agrees together, otherwise growth leader must prepare and scope before the meeting):

  • Identify backlog items that can contribute to the goal.
  • Agree on what tactics/ideas you should be moving to this sprint.
  • Discuss and agree on how you should execute to reach success.
  • Discuss and agree on who should do what.
  • Check for any other items in the backlog you could do in this sprint simultaneously.
  • Discuss and agree on the outcomes/goals.
  • Agree on how you will start working on the project.
Daily Stand-up (15 mins)

Check-in on how experiments are going. Help to unblock roadblocks. Anything requiring a more in-depth conversation should be discussed separately on another call. Keep it strictly 15mins. You can add and remove people to daily catch-ups depending on the growth initiative and who is working on them.

Growth Idea Generation (30-60 mins)

Gather and discuss new experiment ideas that can contribute to the agreed-upon goal. Encourage team members to think creatively and share their insights. Set a time limit for this session to ensure focus and efficiency.

Schedule Meetings

Every Other Week Growth Sprint
Good to start with to get the ball rolling.

  • Every other Monday block time 09:00-12:00 (3 hours): to collect, check with someone if needed and analyze experiments.
  • Every other Monday at 12:00 (60 mins): weekly sprint review/retro.
  • Every other Monday at 13:00 (60 mins): weekly sprint planning/kick-off.
  • (Every other Monday) and Tuesday-Friday at 09:30 (15 mins): Daily stand-up to catch up and road unblock.
  • Friday (after lunch) at around 14:00 (30-60 mins): growth idea generation.
Weekly Growth Sprints

Once you have onboarded the MarTech tools and laid a good foundation, move to weekly sprints.

  • Every Monday block time 09:00-12:00 (3 hours): to collect, check with someone if needed and analyze experiments.
  • Monday at 12:00 (60 mins): weekly sprint review/retro.
  • Monday at 13:00 (60 mins): weekly sprint planning/kick-off.
  • Tuesday-Friday at 09:30 (15 mins): Daily stand-up to catch up and road unblock.
  • Friday (after lunch) at around 14:00 (30-60 mins): growth idea generation.
Rapid Weekly Growth Sprints

Use this to keep it short and to the point; in some cases, you won’t have enough time to have a deep discussion, so a lot of work has to be done upfront, like scoping the experiments and just aligning if the team agrees to move the initiative into the sprint.

  • Every Monday block time 09:00-12:00 (3 hours): to collect, check with someone if needed and analyze experiments.
  • Monday at 12:00 (30 mins): weekly sprint review/retro.
  • Monday at 12:30 (30 mins): weekly sprint planning/kick-off.
  • Tuesday-Friday at 09:30 (15 mins): Daily stand-up to catch up and road unblock.
  • Friday (after lunch) at around 14:00 (30 mins): growth idea generation.
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Building a Growth Team

Assemble the team from every business domain: marketing, engineering, growth, analyst, content, design etc. (for smaller companies, one person will cover several domains).

Establish a Team and Assign Responsibilities

5 key takeaways from Reforge team-building framework:

  1. Growth teams help overcome the “Product Death Cycle” by focusing on KPIs and using a scientific approach.
  2. Growth is a team sport requiring cross-functional skills from product, engineering, marketing, and data roles.
  3. A growth team has no perfect structure; it depends on the organization’s needs and goals.
  4. Growth teams prioritize experiments based on effort, the likelihood of success, and potential upside. (I like to call it ICE (Impact, Confidence and Ease)
  5. Implementing a growth team may face friction; overcoming this requires CEO/Founder buy-in, understanding company culture, and celebrating data-driven wins and failures. (I sometimes see some people reluctant to change ways of doing things or challenging new ideas/approaches with no data to disprove that it won’t work).

Strategic Planning

Goals (North Star Metric, OKRs, KPIs)

The OKR (Objectives and Key Results) approach is a popular method for setting goals by companies such as Google, LinkedIn, and Zynga. This approach helps provide focus, unite teams behind a single strategy, and set ambitious goals.

Define goals – Create North Star Metric, Draft OKRs followed by Tangible Key Metrics

What Is Your North Star Metric?

North Star Metric Increments when we deliver value to your customer in a natural way where customers and the company behave as expected.

  • Simple & memorable for the whole company.
  • Represents the full funnel, including new, engaged and churned users.
  • Does not change often (e.g. every few years max).
  • Usually an absolute number rather than a ratio or percentage.
  • Everyone can connect their work to this number.


If customers absolutely loved your product or service, how would they naturally behave?


  • Facebook – Daily active users
  • Amazon – Repeat purchases
  • Spotify – Time spent listening


  • Slack – Daily active users (DAUs)
  • Salesforce – Records created
  • Hubspot – Weekly active teams


  • AirBnB – Nights booked
  • eBay – GMV
  • Uber – Rides per week

Key Drivers

Key Drivers are the customer behaviour drivers you push daily to maximize the North Star.

  • They track controllable customer behaviours.
  • Select only a few (1-3)
  • Start with first-order drivers and work backwards.
  • Often, it’s a ratio (e.g. activation rate, signup rate).
  • Revisit every 3 months.
  • Each one should have an owner and target.

7 key takeaways from The Art of the OKR at

  1. OKRs consist of a qualitative and inspirational Objective and 3 quantitative Key Results.
  2. Objectives should be time-bound and actionable by the team independently.
  3. Key Results should be difficult but not impossible, with a confidence level of around five out of ten. (I prefer 70% to keep the morale higher, you want to achieve success)
  4. OKRs cascade down from the company to teams and individuals, with each level aligning its OKRs to support the overall company goals.
  5. OKRs should be part of the regular rhythm, with weekly updates and discussions about confidence levels.
  6. Avoid changing OKRs halfway through the set period, as it dilutes focus.
  7. Embrace the possibility of failure, as OKRs are meant to push you to achieve more than you thought possible.

Every Quarter

  • 1 OKR, 3 KPIs to define every quarter.
  • Every Monday to send out updates on goals and key results.

Lean Canvas – 1 Page Business Plan

A Lean Canvas is a one-page business plan template that provides a simplified and visual overview of a startup idea or a new product. It is based on the Lean Startup methodology, which focuses on developing businesses and products iteratively by rapidly validating ideas, assumptions, and market conditions. The Lean Canvas was adapted from the Business Model Canvas by Ash Maurya in 2010 to better cater to the unique requirements of startups.

The Lean Canvas is important for several reasons:

  1. Clarity and simplicity: The one-page format forces you to distil your business idea into its essential elements, making it easier to understand and communicate.
  2. Focus on key aspects: The Lean Canvas highlights the most critical aspects of a business, such as a problem, solution, unique value proposition, target customer segments, channels, revenue streams, and costs.
  3. Rapid validation: The Lean Canvas helps identify assumptions that need to be validated through experimentation and customer feedback, enabling faster learning and pivoting when necessary.
  4. Collaboration: The visual nature of Lean Canvas makes it an excellent tool for collaboration, allowing team members to discuss, revise, and iterate on their business model more effectively.
  5. Time and resource efficiency: The Lean Canvas is quicker to create and update than a traditional business plan, saving time and resources for product development and customer discovery.

In summary, Lean Canvas is a valuable tool for startups and entrepreneurs, providing a clear, concise, and visual representation of their business model while enabling rapid validation and iteration. This approach helps reduce risks and improves the likelihood of success in new ventures’ uncertain and fast-paced environments.

Create ideas – Customer Journey, Marketing, funnel, Product life cycle, Lean canvas.

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Understanding Audience


A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer or user based on real data and market research. Personas help businesses and growth hackers understand and empathize with their target audience, which enables them to create more effective marketing strategies, product improvements, and customer experiences.

Persona Exercise

  • Write down three names
  • Describe the details
  • Write down career facts
  • Identify technology traits
  • Write a short biography

Questions to Answer Thinking of Each Persona:

  • WHAT are they motivated by?
  • WHERE do they spend most of their time?
  • WHY are they interested in your product?
  • WHAT will convince them to buy?

An Example of a Fitness Tracking App


  • Jane Smith
  • 32 years old
  • Works as a marketing manager in a tech company
  • Avid runner and cyclist participate in local races.
  • Married with one child, values family time and staying active together.


  • A comprehensive app to track her running and cycling progress
  • A way to set and monitor personal fitness goals
  • Social features to connect with fellow athletes and friends
  • Scheduling options to balance her workout routine with family and work


  • Inconsistency in fitness tracking between different devices
  • Difficulty finding a user-friendly app with all desired features
  • Time constraints due to work and family commitments
  • Limited budget for premium app subscriptions


  • Achieving personal bests in running and cycling events
  • Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle for herself and her family
  • Encouragement and friendly competition with friends and fellow athletes
  • User testimonials and success stories from similar fitness enthusiasts


  • Use surveys to mine the data
  • Use educational guess

Customer Analysis

NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Find companies’ NPS surveys – Health Check of the Product

Net Promoter Score rating

An index that measures the willingness to recommend

Start with a survey and see if you get at least a 40% score. If not, you need to improve the product first and only when adopting scaling tactics. If you have less than 40%, you must collect customer feedback to understand how to move people from low to higher NPS scores.

Detractors (1-6)
  • Are not particularly satisfied with the product/service
  • The danger of spreading negative word of mouth
Passives (7-8)
  • Are receptive to competing offers from other companies
  • Are left out of the NPS calculations
Promoters (9-10)
  • Your loyal and high commitment to the product/service
  • Fuel viral growth through word of mouth

The Formula for Calculating NPS:

NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Suppose you surveyed 100 customers and received the following responses:

  • 60 customers gave scores between 9-10 (Promoters)
  • 20 customers gave scores between 7-8 (Passives)
  • 20 customers gave scores between 0-6 (Detractors)

First, find the percentage of Promoters and Detractors:

  • % Promoters = 60/100 * 100 = 60%
  • % Detractors = 20/100 * 100 = 20%

Finally, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters to determine your NPS:

NPS = % Promoters – % Detractors = 60% – 20% = 40

So, your Net Promoter Score is 40. This means you have a surplus of 40% more promoters than detractors. The NPS range is -100 to +100. NPS of +50 is excellent.

Understand the Existing Customer


Once you see growth and settle into PMF, you must pay attention to churn rates. You should aim for a below 2% churn rate.

  • Run surveys about why they are staying or leaving

Understand Churn Customers

It’s essential to understand the churn rate and why customers leave.

Often retention is an educational problem

  • Build comprehensive walkthroughs of the product.
  • Easy access to support.
  • Understand the cancellation flow.
  • Trigger survey questions after cancellation are triggered.
  • Make a list of the reasons and ask the customer to provide that insight to validate our assumptions.

Tracking Churn Rates, Non-Renewals

Run exit analysis when you lose clients. You need a way to collect data to learn why customers are churning.

Types of surveys:

  • NPS scores
  • Feedback forms
  • Exit interviews


Experiment with limited or scarce options which people perceive as more valuable or desirable:

  • Waiting list.
  • Only limited available.
  • Charge to skip the queue.
  • Providing a rear discount like for beta-version.


Funnel to visualise prospects’ journey and how they learn about the product or service at each stage

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Awareness Interest Desire Action Loyalty
Activities Consumer searching Google for: “Pet Grooming Near Me”
Goals See what businesses offer this service
Thoughts “I wish I thought to do this sooner” ”I’ve never taken Fido anywhere before”
Emotional state 😐
Touchpoints & Channels Google Map Listing Website
Toucpoints Make the customer aware of the business

The Pirate Metric (AARRR)

  • Acquisition – exclusivity, time box, discounts, good time.
  • Activation – support, better UX, drip campaigns.
  • Retention – alerts, new features, loyalty programs.
  • Revenue – related programs on the checkout bottom page and reduce costs.
  • Referral – an incentive for referral or benefits of social media mentions.

Questions to Ask


Ask early customers these questions

  • Acquisition: How are customers finding us?
  • Activation: What are customers saying?
  • Retention: Why are customers leaving or not leaving?
  • Referral: Would customers share this with their friends?
  • Revenue: Are you making money?
Foundation Qualitative

Moving towards the end of the tail product lifecycle stage questions.

  • Acquisition: # of Conversions, CPA.
  • Activation: Time in the product, ticket volume, LTV.
  • Retention: Churn rate and recapture rate.
  • Referral: Program growth rate.
  • Revenue: Monthly/Annual revenue.

Customer Journey Paths

How many touchpoints are optimal to convert a customer? Too few touchpoints and the funnel doesn’t keep the customer. Too many touchpoints overwhelm prospects and make them want to eject from the funnel. Understand a simple version of how they interact.

Identify the Current Journey

Map the current journey of the customer to realize opportunities quickly. It’s useful to walk everyone through the existing journey before the idea brainstorming session.

Come Up with the Golden Path

Pick one persona and think of the perfect funnel. How did they find us, where they engage, how did it make it feel, and what touches did they get on different grouped channels: Organic, Referrals, Paid? Look what competitors are doing.

Aim to do it quarterly or at least twice a year. It will help to keep a holistic customer experience after many iterations and changes by other teams and a product.

Draft a Relative Path

  • Where did they enter?
  • How do they spend their time?
  • Where do they exit?

Relative Paths

The table should be filled out as you optimize each journey

Buyer Journeys

Create a journey for different prospects. Use the best of your guess, data, and feedback.

Group A

  • Aware of a solution.

Group B

  • Aware of their problem but have no solution.


If you have a free trial account, you have 2 stage customer funnel. You captured the email, proved their experience, and began demonstrating the product’s value.

Possible Growth Levers You Can Pull

  • Email drip campaign explaining the benefits of the product.
  • Design a banner or pop-up on the page.
  • Offer paid plan alongside a trial.

Map the Buyer’s Journeys

  • How did they become aware?
  • What did they do next?
  • What motivated them to purchase the plan?
  • How did they progress in the funnel?

Leverage Existing Customer

  • Gather insights – user data, features used, and how they use the platform.
  • Turn into believers:
    • Remove doubt.
    • Improve the experience.
    • Listen to their needs.
    • Engage via email and constantly listen.
  • Turn loyal into advocates:
    • Always follow-through.
    • Offer them something worth sharing – referral of other accountants with X% discount, time saved, or certification passed.

Growth Levers and Loops

Growth Loop – The steps a user goes through before inviting new users into a process.

A growth loop must contain a clear incentive for users to pass it on.

If done correctly, Growth Loops can supercharge the customer base – the more customers you have, the more people will get exposed to products/services.

  • Avoid many loops. Create 1 or 2 major loops at a time.

Growth Loop Types

  • Direct: Invite to join
  • Indirect: Incentives users like leaving reviews or sharing.
💡 Examples:
A signature on the product or report: “Love this?. Get yours here.”
“Invite a friend for a free month.”

“Invite a friend and you both get $5”

Product Life Cycle

Evaluate what stage you are currently in. Each stage requires a different approach.

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Development Stage

  • Research the competition
  • Understand users
  • Determine product requirements

Introduction Stage

  • Focus on testing retention and satisfaction
  • Deploy growth techniques

Growth Stage

  • Deploy strategies
  • Track the progress

Maturity Stage

  • Examine new opportunities
  • Explore new pricing models

Decline Stage

  • Understand preference changes
    • Recognize a stop in growth
  • Launch new products or features

Technology Adoption

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  • Innovators – willing to take risks to try product/service
  • Early Adopters – thought leaders have financial liquidity higher level of education
  • Early Majority – risk-averse, conservative with spending, can be influenced by the thought leaders and influencers, usually younger – the largest consumer group.
  • Late adopters – sceptics, very risk-averse, have limited financial liquidity, and are less educated – the second largest consumer group.
  • Laggards – last to adopt, oldest, and likes to do things traditionally. Might make decisions from word of mount, family, and friends.

Product-Market Fit (PMF)

Finding the right PMF could last weeks or months and take many iterations.

Bad Product-Market Fit

  • A misunderstood product.
  • Customers don’t see the value.
  • No word of the month.
  • No reviews.
  • Long sales cycles.

Good Product-Market Fit

  • Good growth curve.
  • Easy-to-close deals.
  • Acquiring customers organically.
  • Press attention.

Message-Customer Fit

Not having a good Product-Market Fit might make you think the problem is the product itself. If the product solves actual pain points, you must find a way to communicate that.

The right message repeatedly reaches the right customer in the right market. You are selling a purpose, not a product that can be challenging to convey.

Rapid Growth Experimentation

Growth tests are done at a rapid pace within a tight time period.

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  • Establish goals.
  • Find the growth lever to pull.
  • Collect all the possible data, emails, dashboards, CRM, website, and other data surrounding the business.
  • Gather and find ideas to try.
  • Prioritize ideas using the ICE method.
  • Execute and test.
  • Analyze and report on the results.

After accomplishing results, zoom out and establish new goals to repeat the process.

Smoke Test

The Law of Smoke Test Table

Traffic Call To Action Conversion?
Cold Cold Yes
Cold Cold No
Hot Cold Yes
Hot Cold Yes

Smoke Test Ideas Based on Traffic

Cold Neutral Hot
Coupon Quizzes Consultation
Checklist/Cheatsheet Coupon Quote
Toolkit Video Courses Purchase
Calendar Live Demo Demo
Podcast Tickets Trial
Email Course Giveaway
Swipe File eBook
Infographic T-shirts
Whitepaper Demo
Industry Stats Trial
Case Study

Learning from Failure

You only fail if you make the same mistake twice. Learn from each failure. It can help to recognize warning signs before the failure happens next time. Also, consider that new innovative ideas won’t last forever as customers and prospects get fatigued.

Common Reasons for Failure

  • Data was misinterpreted (correlation does not mean causation).
  • Misunderstanding the customer or prospect.
  • Gaps in execution.
  • Lack of time (double the time estimated).
  • Wrong attitude.

Review Execution

  • Where were the roadblocks?
  • What exactly went wrong?
  • How will you prevent this?

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