Arriving at 8 am in a dark, sexy party space with blue lights and round screens wasn’t exactly what I expected from a traditional conference location. So I assumed it was a metaphor for the Lean Startup; when you begin with the Lean methodologies, it seems like a dark, huge scary place, but the more you learn and practise, the more you discover amazing processes and discoveries that make your work exciting and fun. The major focus of this conference was on innovation and how to implement Lean in large corporations.
The latest trend seems to be that every company would like to have an innovation team and is preoccupied with the question how to encourage people to be more innovative. On the other hand, companies already have innovation departments, but haven’t figured out the best incentives and techniques that will make people deliver the new “Google” - a riveting idea tested every week.
Several very enthusiastic and talented people from local Berlin startups presented their Lean company culture. They live and breathe Lean in every decision they make, even when they are no longer considered to be startups, but have evolved into a large company.
It seems they have discovered the magic formula on how to incorporate Lean principles into a bigger company; being Lean must be part of your company’s DNA. All employees think and apply Lean in every aspect of their job. Sound easy? Not really. Does it work for all? Probably not, but you can always try exploring and choose what tools or processes fit your organization.
I really liked how some organizations adjusted and simplified basic Lean processes, enabling them to fit their specific needs. One example was presented by the talented entrepreneur Itamar Gilad, who developed an alternative process during his time as Product Manager at Google (Gmail and Youtube) to road maps called GIST (Goals, Ideas, Steps, Tasks). Instead of using the linear road maps with dates and plans that are often very difficult to maintain and commit to, he suggested setting up a multi-tiered and iterative planning system that involves the entire company.
You start with the Goals, which are the company’s strategy in terms of desired outcome; preferably use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for this. The questions that should be answered here are: 1. Where do we want to be (and by when?) 2. How will we know that we got there? Important that all the Goals are measurable that allow you to track your progress.
The Ideas are hypothetical ways to achieve the goals. Collect many Ideas but prioritize them and choose no more than 1-3 Ideas per iteration.
Steps: dispatching the big project in to small projects - they can be treated as experiments that test the Idea. Each is no longer than 10 weeks.
Tasks are specific small activities planned in 1–2 week iterations and usually executed following Agile methodologies.
At every iteration you come back and check if your main goal hasn’t changed, and if you have additional Ideas to add, then you need to adjust it and a change all the derivatives accordingly, in this way you iterate and stay Agile in every step of the way.
It helps increase the ownership of each employee and also ensures that everybody shares the main goal of the company, and understands why are they doing this specific project.
For me the conference was a great opportunity to meet new people with questions, ideas and suggestions that I hadn’t thought about before. It enabled me to broaden my horizon, leave my comfort zone and be open to new directions.
I assume this is also part of what Lean wants you to do: Go out there, be bold, experiment, learn, rinse and repeat.
Credits for cover image go to: Lean Startup Co.