So Meta: Using Lean Startup Principles to Create Lean Organizations

How many times can the word “Lean” appear in one post?

A little background…

Your Team Is Your Customer

I found that our engineers were maybe a little frustrated.

Create Your Hypothesis and Share Your Vision

Build Shared Understanding, Cross-Functionally

Rules are rules, yo.
  • Everybody reads the chapters in advance of the meeting and is expected to come prepared with questions, observations, and ideas for how the principles in the chapter(s) might fit into their current project or role.
  • The book club meeting is not a lecture or a presentation, but a conversation among peers. Your job, as facilitator, is to come prepared with conversation-sparking questions and to ask ad-hoc follow-up questions that keep the discussion moving.
  • Everybody speaks at least once at every meeting. (Yes, even engineers, and eventually they’ll get over their white-hot loathing of you.) Seriously, if you have people who are absolutely petrified of speaking in a group setting, do make accommodations for them (they’re your customer, after all), but the everybody-speaks rule is a good guideline.
  • Since you want everyone to speak, your book club needs to be sized appropriately. If you have too many people for everyone to participate in the conversation, split into multiple groups.
  • Be cross-functional. Resist the urge to break into functional groups (all engineers, all product leaders, etc.) and instead, include representatives of all different areas of your business. In our book club, we had engineers, designers, product managers, project managers, people in customer service roles, marketing execs, and even an HR exec, all learning together. It was valuable for everyone to hear the questions and concerns posed by people in different roles, and it was a great opportunity to build empathy between team members.
  • Remember: you’re asking not just for a change in process, but a change in culture. This is why it’s great to include people you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with product methodologies: a true cultural shift needs everyone on board. Also, Lean Startup tactics can be creatively adapted to improve work beyond just product development. I truly believe that there are few roles that can’t benefit from operating closer to the customer and working more iteratively.
  • This might seem obvious, but some people are auditory learners. Make sure you give your team members the option of listening to the audiobook. We did, and our team was split about 50/50 between audio and ebook/hardcover versions.
  • Nobody knows everything; including you. And that’s okay! You’re probably going to be asked questions that you can’t answer. Create a parking lot for “I-don’t-knows”. After the meeting, spend time researching answers and follow up with your team. If you can’t easily find an answer, consult an advisor. I’m happy to be on your “phone-a-friend” list, and if I can’t answer, I’ll pull in my own advisors to help.

What’s next? Recruit Early Adopters and Build an MVP

Measure

Learn

Learn, Part II: Be Transparent

Build Your Next Iteration

Pivot or Persevere?

New People, Same Culture: How to Bring New Hires Into the Fold

Questions? Comments?

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Socially-conscious product leader, Lean Startup evangelist, COO and Chief Product Officer at Adopt-a-Pet.com

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Abbie Moore

Abbie Moore

Socially-conscious product leader, Lean Startup evangelist, COO and Chief Product Officer at Adopt-a-Pet.com

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