There seems to be a lot of content being posted around Lean development and Lean software delivery. We have a lot of thought leaders giving examples of how leans startups manage to get things right in the context of software development etc. In the middle of this hype people tend to forget not everyone gets Lean right. In order to get Lean working properly in a organization it is not just development that needs to implement lean practices but the entire organization needs to be lean, yes I mean marketing, Sales, Design, Support all of them need to be lean not just development. In the case of startups since the lines of communications are smaller and the relationships are fluid. The prime outcome in a startup is to make sure that not only the engineering output is good, but the market messaging is right, the pricing model encourages conversions, the sales model and approach is the right one etc. Fundamentally what we are trying to prove is that our solution ,based on product/ market fit, resonates with the market we are trying to go after. Which implicitly means Lean is not just a development only thing.
In a startup people may assume this to be a “no duh” kind of thing, but this is very profound change in large organizations. Large organizations have made their business effective building a “silo’ed”base optimization models. What do I mean by that? In large companies ( based on my limited interaction with friends and families) every department optimized for their silo i.e. Product Development is optimized for product development, marketing is optimized for marketing, sales is optimized for sales etc. etc. an each vertical is optimized but they not optimized horizontally i.e. to optimize the overall outcome of the business.
Everyone is optimized for their vertical but not for the overall business outcome
What makes matters worse is that in all the verticals, they have different KPI’s, definitions of success, and have different definition for the customer (which is again another nebulous term). So when you have each vertical optimized you are in fact optimizing for your vertical and not for the overall business. What companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and others have taught us, is that it is always horizontal … You need transparency across these various organizations and have the right set of KPI’s that not only drive sales plans but also things like design considerations, financial modeling, marketing campaigns, support models etc.
I am not advocating that we go ahead and create a gargantuan database across the organization to address this issue. If that was the case this problem would have been solved a long time ago and architecturally and from a business perspective it does not make sense….
This is not just about technology, it is also about Organization, processes, and values (Just like Clay Christensen highlights in his several books on innovation)
Traditional form of Marketing focus on front loading activities and the notion of ROMI (Return on Marketing investment) is at abstract notion at best. What you usually hear from immature marketing organizations is that we are spending too much time on analysis and less time on execution. Nobody asks my marketing what you analyzing? The only reason why analysis takes so long is because marketing does not know what they are looking for. Which is why most marketing organizations need to think about outcomes they want to drive right from get go. Otherwise during crunch time the only thing a marketing organization can do is cut people in order to manage costs.
With the internet traditional sales models are under severe pressure. Internet makes the cost of sales more effective by introducing a powerful amplification and sales channel. Gone are the days when you sold something and did not care whether a client used the product or not, until you decided reconnect with the client. The internet has allowed the recency, frequency and monetary value model to scale (regarding the RFM model please read Jim Novo’s seminal book Drilling down
). Lean sales requires that companies put people in effective relationships and use the internet in places where basic relationships will do. But getting do this stage requires a well defined focus and better integration with Marketing, Product Development, and other disciplines within the organization
Thanks To Apple people are at least taking this discipline seriously, but what people tend to forget is that Design is integrally driven by data. The notion of rapid prototyping can implemented not just from a product design perspective, but also into sales, marketing, advertising buys etc.
Going back to the recency, frequency model this is an often missed piece of the puzzle, the folks at 37 signals (the team that built basecamp
have done this) . You can actually use lean principles in support along with the data pile that exists in various organization. Support data can provide insights on product experience, what to A/B test? Try out different types of support offerings etc.
Although this is not a comprehensive list of areas that Lean touches. Lean is an company thing not just optimizing a division thing. Unfortunately people forget the overall objective of Lean is to improve the business not just one pillar of the business