Many enterprises are looking for ways to get products out the door faster, and to use lean startup techniques to achieve this goal. However, in a large organization, it can be difficult to change product development practices, as they are often built into the fabric of the organization. Here are some lessons we have learned, to help enterprises implement these practices successfully.
- Don’t implement this as a global process change and expect everyone in the organization to adopt these new practices immediately. Instead, select a single project with a short timeline, a high business priority, and a high visibility within the organization, and let the leader of this project start using some of these techniques on this project. This sounds counter-intuitive as you are risking new techniques on a key project, but you need to demonstrate to the rest of the organization that these techniques work on a practical level, on a project that they will be hearing about anyway. This removes the theoretical discussion completely, about which techniques will or will not work within your organization, and instead demonstrates these techniques on a real project.
- Bring in someone from outside the current organizational hierarchy to lead the charge. This person can be someone from another organizational group within the company, or an outside consultant, but it is important that they are not bound by the current practices and rules of the organization, and that they report to someone who wants to make change happen and is willing to take the risks to do so. This person should have experience implementing agile, lean startup, and other practices, so they can pick and choose the techniques that will work best in your organization.
- Be prepared to iterate, test new processes, use what works, and discard what does not work. Every organization is unique, and some of the techniques will work better than others in your organization. So let the project leader test these techniques, do not expect all of them to succeed, and focus on the techniques that help get your projects done more quickly and successfully. This is harder than it sounds, as you have selected a key project for the business, so it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting every step on the project to go well. If you are prepared for this, and if you have prepared your Steering Committee and other leadership teams for this, they will be supportive of the lessons learned along the way, as long as it helps get the project done for the business.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Make sure you have established the governance structure for the project, and that they are fully aware of why you are implementing these new techniques on their project: for example, the project will be implemented much faster than with traditional processes, there will be more opportunities for prototyping and iteration of the end product, or whatever you are trying to achieve with these new techniques. You will need to communicate more, not less, with all of your stakeholders along the way. Keep everyone informed, and make sure your users, technical resources, decision-makers, and everyone else with an interest in the project is kept in the loop. Be sure to share what is working as well as what is not working, as most people are interested to hear what lessons you are learning.
- Align the project with the business goals, and make sure the techniques you select are helping achieve these goals. If your goal is to achieve business value faster on your projects, then you will want to focus on techniques that help you deliver early prototypes and alpha versions of your product directly to users, to rapidly incorporate their feedback and release new versions of your product daily or weekly. If your goal is to get your project out the door faster, then you will want to focus on techniques that help you release faster and to plan for new releases of the product quickly. Focus on these business goals, and you will select the best techniques to achieve these goals.
Let us know what techniques you are using to implement lean startup techniques in your enterprise, what challenges you are finding along the way, and if these techniques help you.