So your company wants to innovate like a lean start-up?

Enterprise managers, it’s time to leverage startup innovation.

Entrepreneurs are awesome. They have been around forever. We used to call them inventors, explorers and even crazy people! Well, some were most definitely visionary and fearless in the face of stubborn adversity. They weren’t necessarily believed all the time so the commoners did call them crazy. Now we call them visionary.  Deservedly so because entrepreneurs change the world for the better. Some don’t, but the ones with their great products we remember because they changed the world for better. Thomas Edison, Marie Curie and now in the 21st century our visionary entrepreneurs exist in organizations or are leading lean start-up ventures.

Eric Ries is a failed and successful entrepreneur of start-up businesses who over the years culminated his lessons learned into a great book; Lean Start-Up. These lessons are not his alone, and well proven by other market leaders; however, Ries has done a fantastic job of simplifying the lessons so they can be easily adopted in organisations who are investing in great business agility. The top 6 books for understanding the Lean Start-Up movement and giving you the insights needed to be an entrepreneurial manager are;

Lean Start-up BooksToday let’s continue to focus on The Lean Start-Up. The environment in which start-ups are spawned in are “extremely uncertain”. That is, they don’t really know their customers yet, they don’t know if their product is desired, and they have absolutely no idea whether the business is going be to worth it!!! Worth it in the sense that it will change world, and therefore maybe someday make a great visionary business model.

Here’s some context to help understand the difference between Lean Start-Up and other product delivery methodologies.

Agile, Lean Start-up Methodology ComparisonWhen we think of the situation at hand in terms of inputs, outcomes and performance of getting from a (a problem or idea – inputs) to b (solution – outcome) it’s easier to understand which methodology is best to use when.

Waterfall – problem: no house. Solution: build house.

Agile – problem: no sign on. Solution: which one? will it integrate? Unproven in our platform? Iterate and learn safely with test (specific) driven development and emperical delivery process such as scrum

Lean Start-Up – problem:  don’t know? I just have a vision. solution – don’t know, I could guess but it’s a new idea; lets experiment. Hypothesis driven development, lets learn as much before the angels cut our funding.

Ok, yes – that’s a simplified description. And I bet you’re being pragmatically intelligent and saying well some situations are appropriate at some times and some the other. That’s exactly the point; you as an entrepreneurial manager now have the opportunity to leverage the wisdom of ages and the agility of youth to drive innovation in your business.

This is business agility; being visionary, creating a platform to leverage for speedy delivery and supporting accelerated growth with engaging cultures that are ALL focused on engaging customers.


So what’s the top half a dozen to leverage from Lean Start-Up?

  1. The goal is to create an engine of growth: “maximize learning & minimise the time to feedback loop so as to generate return before the money runs out “
  2. Identify if you have a problem worth solving?
  3. Minimal Viable Product – “The least amount of work you can do to learn the most of something (so as to eliminate uncertainty)”
  4. Pivot – “Pivot is a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, business model, and engine of growth”
  5. Product / Launch Stage – Get ready to learn from customers
  6. Experiment – Hypothesis Driven Development allows you to learn what’s good and to  spend less on what’s not
  7. Is your product finding being pulled by the market to success?


OK, that’s seven and there is a whole lot more however; for now, the key takeaway is that business agility is inherent in your rate of learning and adaptation to better progress.


What’s your cultures rate of learning?

Scaled Agile Portfolio Billboard

On large scale scrum programs or scaled agile portfolios it is often easy to have people come and go from the village without all of the community knowing.  Often new people are welcomed to their immediate scrum team, announced at scrum of scrums or an email is sent around.  I’ve observed that new people are often not recognised for a long while by other villagers walking past, and more commonly by the Business Scrum attendees who are often not sitting with the teams everyday. While it may seem like a small transition, eventually the newbie will settle in and everyone will know him – or will they?
The act of welcoming new people and helping them to feel settled is dependent upon the behaviours of those already here. The villagers need to actively welcome a person, not just ‘talk about’ it. Being active in welcomeing people and introducing them to the entire program helps to bring them into the culture you’d like to sustain as well as speeding up their ability to collaborate and be productive.

Agile Portfolio BIllboardWhile there is a number of more well know activities for welcoming people into the scrum team; it’s also important for the whole agile portfolio to acknowledge they are part of a bigger village.  A Town Hall or Portfolio Sprint Reviews are great places for the personal introductions however for those who work with us and aren’t regulars to turning up it’s also great to share the news at the Scrum of Scrums and Business Scrums ceremonies.  We create an Agile Portfolio Billboard as a great space for profiling information to everyone. In the same way you have a Dashboard for builds, velocity, engagement it’s great to have a Billboard as a live source of communication that maintains news, decisions and changes for the entire program.

Update the team space by adding in a persona card that includes;

  • A clear photo so that we associate the face with the name
  • Their name, their team – and their location; especially if it’s a large spread out program or distributed teams so that we have context when the newbie speaks and we have visibility of transitions that may impact the teams
  • Add in personal details that help to create ice-breaker conversations and for others to easily become familiar with the person. The more familiar we are with someone, the easier it is to have a conversation and to collaborate
  • For example;  “favourite bands now & when you we’re a teenager”, weekend passions, and of-course being a Melbourner, asking what coffee they like is a must!

New Guy Agile Ice Breaker


(due to privacy laws we couldn’t show the team photos, hence the drawings 🙂 )

It’s a simple task that creates some tangible and lasting benefits;

  • Give others visibility so they can say hi rather than just walk past
  • Remind Business Scrum we’re real people on the project, have lives and also give them some icebreaker opportunity to engage with the teams
  • Helps us old people remember the newbies names with the faces…you’ll be amazed when you work across large programs how many people don’t everyones name – we just don’t admit all the time

This is one simple step to building a welcoming, friendly and collaborative culture. There are many others available or create your own; remember to keep it simple, friendly and encouraging for people to communicate, build trust and connect with one another.