Being a strong supporter of Lean Startup principles, I always try to apply them to problem-solving, especially in situations of extreme uncertainty. Lean Startup principles help to de-risk our product or service before scaling.
In this case, we applied the Lean Startup approach to develop a highly effective framework for the development and implementation of new ideas and products within organizations. That is, our product was the framework needed to run projects following Lean Startup principles. In this case, our MVP was the minimum set of elements (governance, process, enablers) needed to run 3-5 teams for 8-12 weeks with the aim of solving strategic objectives, and learning from the experience.
Following the “Build – Measure – Learn loop”, our main focus was to identify the barriers teams faced, and implement them as features of the subsequent version of our Lean Startup framework.
Although every organization is unique, I have identified several commonalities I found while implementing the framework in both public and private organizations. Below is a non-exhaustive list of my learnings:
- Right Mindset: before launching the projects, we made sure all parties were trained and exposed to the Lean Startup principles, as well as their roles and expectations. This meant everyone, including top management, learned the expected roles and behaviors required to enable this new way of working. Additionally, teams were trained on how to use the tools, meaning that they were familiar with them from the get-go
- Teams worked on important challenges: You can only get so far taking people through purely hypothetical situations. We therefore take the teams we work with through real business priorities with high degrees of uncertainty. In our experience this is the optimal combination for applying lean concepts. Working on a strategic priority also captured the support and attention of top management, as they could see the potential benefits.
- Launch teams to learn: The objective of the first cohort of teams was always to learn. This way, we reduced pressure on the teams to achieve results. It also gave them the freedom to identify challenges as they ran experiments. Surprisingly, some teams showed results after six weeks.
- Effective governance: We set deadlines, project teams, and expected deliverables in advance, with clear guidelines of what was expected at each point. Both parties (teams and decision-makers) appreciated this.
- Valuable meetings: We made sure meetings were short, structured, on time, and provided enough information for effective decision making. This meant a well-prepared agenda, guided discussions to focus on related topics, and time management. As a result, meetings during the process were appreciated by both parties (teams and top management) as valuable.
- Rigorous with the process and flexible with the outputs: We focused on strict management of process, deadlines, and output, allowing teams to work on what they believed was the priority in their own way.
- Reporting activities were reduced to a minimum: By reducing reporting activities to a minimum, teams could focus on actually running experiments, limiting the time they spent in less valuable activities. We had to be aware of the value of information requested from different parties, and act as a filter. This meant reducing the amount of information required of teams for reporting purposes.
We still have a lot to learn, and each organization is different, however I would like to use this article as a platform for discussion, where we can share different experiences and points of view. So please share your thoughts!