Disciplinary lean strategy

As you may know, the most famous use-case for lean methodology apply for the product lifecycle- You build a product, measure the product usage, learn from the product data, and build again.

However, I found that this methodology can be applied for other disciplines of the company, and not only for product development, you just need to use the “Build > Measure > Learn” loop for each discipline of the company. In this way, I believe you can align the whole company towards the most important goals of the initiative, and to establish/disapprove your assumptions much faster (and wast less time and money).

Build Measure Learn

Company lean strategy

One of the most important things you MUST do, is to build a Company-Level strategy. In my opinion- on early stages the wise approach is to plan a very focused strategy for your whole company, and propagate it from top to down to all the other departments of the company.

The idea is to focus the team on the goals, in order to achieve the make the most of the time, without wasting any time by useless activities for this stage.

Company-Level

You need to ask yourself what are the next business goals? (validation, hiring, fundraising, market share growth, revenues, marketing, profitability, efficiency etc.)

The next step is to build a sub-strategy for each department, this strategy should answer the top-level business goals which we defined above. It’s really important to follow the company goals when you build the department goals, in this way you can keep your organization very focused on the target, and allow your team to achieve your goals in much faster and efficient way.

After the cycle of the milestone completed, we need to summarize all the high-level knowledge from the various departments, and decide about the next big goal. This is probably the most crucial stage- now you need to align all the departments and understand whether this initiative was successful, whether you need to pivot, or even kill the whole initiative.

On this stage, every department should try and figure whether they met their assumptions and what does it means. E.g. if the BizDev dept. haven’t established their assumptions, but the product dept. established there is a clear need for their product, the company should consider “pivoting” the business model.

Product

We need to understand our MUST-HAVE objectives in order to fulfill the business goals:

  1. What is the product/experiment?
  2. Which features are REQUIRED in order to accomplish the mission?

BizDev / Sales

First we need to understand what are the minimum achievements that REQUIRED in order to face the business goals, and then to understand which steps we MUST do in order to accomplish that.

Try to do quick experiments that exploring the different approaches and find out what the problem is. Maybe another pitch will sell better? maybe you should try to pivot the business model?

This is the MOST painful phase for me as a tech entrepreneur(who responsible for the tech stuff). You can always optimize/improve the product- and of course, better products sales better, and improve the chances of closing the deal. BUT that’s doesn’t mean you need to do it now!

Most of the time- when the idea just “improve the chances”, it just doesn’t. You need to create something so valuable, something that solve a pain that is so painful, that the other side will be willing to pay for it and to move forward with the deal. If that’s doesn’t happened it either we not really solving a pain, or not presenting our solution good enough.

In my opinion the most problematic thing, in the business development, is to measure things out, and to find out when you need to pivot your actions. In order to do that I recommend to define strict KPIs that will helps you to measure if you heading on the right direction.

Marketing

Plan short-term marketing experiments instead of big, long-term campaigns. You’ll find that it’s much easier to plan short-term marketing experiment and then improving your actions, instead of building a big, long-term, massive marketing campaigns.

You’ll need to investigate which channels, and type of medias works better on your target-audience, and even to discover who’s your target audience that related to the current business objectives. For example- if the business objective is to validate the new product, you should target yourself to the specific kind of early adopters that will show interest in using your product. However, there you may have uncertainty what is the best media type that will help you to get them- is it a blog post, a competitions, an advertisement in LinkedIn or Facebook? or maybe you should go look up for them in specific forums, or maybe investing in SEO is the right approach?

The wise way is to try some of this approaches that makes sense to you, and measure. See what working best for your case.

R&D

This is might be the most problematic section for me to explain and even understand, because how can you do experiments with development?? Fortunately these days it is possible, but it might be expensive.

When we develop new projects, sometimes we can assist 3rd party projects/platforms in order to deploy things faster. Deploying thing faster using 3rd party platforms such as open source projects or SAS tools(i.e. Parse.com can shorten our development time and to help us to answer our goals faster. Another example for lean in development, is to build a poor solution as a POC- a solution that is only validate our hypothesis that it’s even possible, even though we know for sure that we’ll need to rebuild form scratch in the future.

However, it’s really important to remember that when we build shaky solutions we collect more and more technical debt that on some point we’ll have to pay(with an interest).

In order to use this shortcuts well, without entering yourself into “too much debt”, I recommend to set KPIs in advance in order to know when is it a good time to reconsider these solutions.

Hiring

Can you see the pattern yet? when hiring talents- do quick campaigns to find out what is the best channel to hire talents. Is it offering great perks for referrals? is it by lecturing on professional events? or maybe using PR?

TL;DR

It’s really important to ask yourselves, on every step and on every part of your process, what are you trying to achieve and to validate if you are on the right way using KPIs that you defined in advance.

I believe that the lean methodology is a valid approach for every discipline of your company, but- in order to get a good results you need to plan your experiment and to have a positive benchmarks that proves that you doing right.

What do you think?

Written on October 18, 2015
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