The Lean Grownup: Applying Lean Startup on Established Teams

Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup” has made a huge impact. But many people shy away from its tenets because they don’t work in a startup. Although Ries mentions some of the ways that his thinking applies even in established companies, his primary focus understandably rests on the true startup. Through working with teams in my company on a portfolio ranging from greenfield development to 15-year-old legacy products, I have uncovered some practical techniques for applying Ries' core ideas on teams at any phase of the product life cycle.

Earlier this year, I led a half-dozen eight-week-long study groups in close readings of Ries' book.  Despite rich conversations and lots of light bulbs going off, I was worried: in a year, would anyone remember more about the book than that its cover was blue?  While people liked the ideas in the abstract and even saw how they applied in concrete examples in the book, they felt lost trying to apply the thinking to our work, especially since we were not working in a prototypical start-up.  I began looking for ways to apply these ideas practically, in every sprint, even on teams working on legacy products.  I focused on the generic idea of validating hypotheses.  While this was somewhat familiar to teams working in an Agile context, people struggled to find hypotheses to test in the first place, and then to design lean experiments aimed at testing them. They kept coming to the same place: "The only way to test this is to build the whole thing and see what happens."  Surely, this couldn't be a simple fact we had to accept because we worked with big complicated, non-consumer products beyond the start-up stage.  I began building exercises and techniques for tackling these problems.  By testing these with teams and observing the traps we continued to fall into, I tweaked these to be more effective.  In this talk, I'll discuss the underlying ideas, the two practices I have come to believe are crucial (first finding hypotheses and then testing them leanly), and run activities that give people a chance to try applying them.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

  • "The Lean Startup" in one minute
  • What is a startup?
  • Why applying the ideas to an established organization is tricky
  • Which ideas translate the best?
  • Exercise: Hunting for Hypotheses
  • Exercise: Building the Leanest Experiment

Learning Outcome

  • Key Lean Startup ideas to apply on established teams
  • Technique for finding hidden assumptions
  • Technique to help find the leanest experiment

Target Audience

Product Owners, Engineers, Agile Coaches, ScrumMasters

schedule Submitted 5 years ago

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