It’s clear that Lean Startup is shifting from startups to the enterprise. There’s still a lot to learn amongst early stage entrepreneurs, and a lot of discussion that’s needed around implementing Lean Startup, but attention has definitely shifted to applying the framework in large organizations.
Alistair and I have been looking at how Lean Startup and Lean Analytics are working in the enterprise. He did a workshop on the subject at the recent Lean Startup Conference, and you can see the slides below:
In my research, I spoke with a bunch of intrapreneurs working at a variety of different companies (technology, telecom, media, publishing, etc.) and came away with some interesting and somewhat (in my mind), surprising insights. I wanted to share those with you, as the conversation around Lean Startup and Lean Analytics continues to expand.
1. It’s already happening.
Granted, there’s a bias here because I spoke specifically with folks that have applied Lean practices in their organizations, but I was incredibly surprised at how extensive their work has been. One Senior VP at a major media company talked about all of the small experiments they’ve run with different web properties, testing for specific behaviors, iterating quickly and abandoning things that didn’t work. It was inspiring to realize that people are implementing Lean and getting results, they just don’t share publicly in the same way that startups do.
I asked everyone I spoke to about how they got the Lean methodology into their company. The answer was simple, “We just did it.” One person (when he was assigned a new project) started it off by telling people they’d go speak with customers first, before building something. Everyone around the table just assumed that’s how things worked, so they followed along. And voila, Lean had infiltrated the organization. So there’s an opportunity to be stealthy/sneaky about applying Lean: start small and just do it. People will follow along.
3. Presentation matters.
Data people have no problem looking at and sifting through lots of information. But everyone else needs things presented in simple and consistent ways. You need to design scorecards and focus on key metrics that will really resonate. Even if managers ask for “more data” they don’t really want to see more data. They want answers to questions. And consistency is critical–you need to show the same thing over and over and over again for people to understand its importance.
4. The metrics are changing.
It’s happening slowly, but I definitely see a trend (particularly in speaking with publishing and media organizations) towards actionable metrics. Page views will always be a thing, but now the focus is on funnels and user engagement. And they’re simplifying too. This is right out of the Lean Analytics playbook (think: the One Metric That Matters), where they’re mapping a user’s path/funnel through a website or mobile app and deciding what they want people to do, and how they’re going to measure it. In a few cases, people had a full user behavior lifecycle mapped out and then they were drilling into specific areas, running short experiments and trying to improve those things.
5. Don’t call it Lean Startup.
This isn’t something I thought about, but it came up a few times. People are devouring Lean Startup (the book), and other material, but when they bring the concepts into their organizations, they don’t call it “Lean Startup”. Similar to my first point above, they just bring it in as a new way of doing things. The word “startup” seems to scare folks in larger organizations; they don’t think it’ll apply to them. And a few people told me that their bosses/managers don’t like the idea of espousing or being married to any one philosophy or approach. So if you’re looking to bring Lean into your company, drop the “Startup” and just focus on the actual to-dos and best practices.
6. Getting all the data you need is hard.
Large organizations have stuff all over the place. It’s not always clear who owns what, and over time data gets stuck in disparate systems managed by disparate teams. One person I spoke with told me that she spent 6 months just figuring out where everything was, and piecing together what they had. Only at that point was she able to figure out what data points they were missing and start collecting those. It’s a big undertaking to try and consolidate different data silos, but it’s an important step to building a solid foundation.
7. Test new product ideas and turn them into features.
New products that you test quickly as experiments (against an existing user base — which large companies typically have), may not become new products that you officially launch. But you might discover features that can be incorporated into existing products. I spoke with a couple of people that take this approach–they’ll build small mobile apps (or websites) on the side, testing against specific metrics (usually engagement related) and see what happens. Oftentimes they don’t end up with an entirely new product, but they’ve found a feature that works well for their existing product. We often see startups labeled as “features not products” — which for startups is a bad thing. For intrapreneurs it might not be, because they can roll those features into an existing product, and they’ve already proven the benefits (albeit on a smaller scale, in an experimental way). This kind of innovation is awesome.
Lean Startup and Lean Analytics is in the Enterprise
There’s a lot of work still to do. We need more people coming forward and sharing their stories. Alistair and I hope to do that in the near future. But it’s also clear that Lean Startup and Lean Analytics are firmly planting themselves in the enterprise and making a difference. Intrapreneurs aren’t asking for permission, they’re just going ahead and doing it. The corporate rules still apply — you need air cover, you need budgetary support, etc. — but things are moving. The wheels are turning.
It was exciting and inspiring to speak with intrapreneurs at large multinationals and realize that they’re, in some cases, more agile and nimble than many startups I’ve spoken to. When they finally get to applying Lean and running experiments, they’ve got significant resources (user base, web traffic, dollars, etc.) to put to good use. I expect we’ll see more big companies applying Lean in their day-to-day affairs, and we’ll see more stories and legitimate case studies emerge as well.