Leveraging Lean Startup in established organizations

As organizations mature and become more complex, aversion to risk increases, resulting in a slow decision process. Yet the world around is not standing still, and the speed of change continues to accelerate. Nimble young businesses, who live by the Lean Startup approach of building, measuring, and learning, move from nothing to a product customers love in what appears, from an established company perspective at least, virtually no time.

If both have strategic clarity around the vision, startups leave established organizations in the rear-view mirror because they optimize for simplicity and velocity. Startups practice the lean methodology to avoid spending time on things that ultimately won’t deliver value. They prevent waste by learning early and quickly where they are wrong.

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V1 innovation within a V+1 org

Startups are optimized towards launching version 1.0 offerings, identifying product-market fit, and putting in place the best go-to-market organization to attract new customers. Once the “magic” happens (or should I say the challenging work pays off), when users and products find each other in a happy place, the growth loops evolve towards retention in addition to the original focus purely on acquisition. As the company matures, there is a natural tendency to increasingly drive the business towards delivering incremental products, focusing on the existing target audiences. After all, that’s where the revenue has come from historically, so why not concentrate the R&D and go-to-market investments on what we know best and minimize financial risks? Larger companies sometimes have a hard time going after something unproven that will take investing multiple years to become a meaningful part of the revenue. It could even take market share away from existing offerings!

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Where in the org is Product Marketing?

As companies evolve, they (sometimes) take the time to reflect on the best teams’ structure to achieve their strategies and goals. For most groups, the roles and responsibilities are self-contained within that function. For example, while the sales team organization to deliver the expected results might change significantly over time, from an inside-sales structure to heavy OEM or direct-to-consumer focus, the boundaries remain within “sales” – I can’t name any examples of companies beyond the Seed stage where the R&D leader manages the enterprise sales team. Yet, for one role, defining its location in the org-chart is not as clear… and that challenge is fundamentally described in the function name: Product Marketing.

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It’s not your opinion, it’s your expertise that matters

Everyone has plenty of them, and sadly, many of us are not afraid of sharing them regularly. Not only that, but they often have absolutely no relation with reality. Problematically, the more authoritative your position, the more significant their effect. Yes, I’m referring to opinions. Yet ultimately, what matters is expertise, not opinions.

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It all comes down to communication

It’s a great feeling. You come out of a productive meeting you’ve chaired happy because everyone seemed to be on the same page. They all knew what was expected of them—your requests were very specific—and the next steps you outlined were clear and meaningful. Wonderful! Then, three days later, people are asking each other if they were even at the same meeting. Just because it was clear to you doesn’t mean it was clear to them. And whose fault is that? Sorry to say, but it was probably yours.

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Better decision making: Business lessons from the aviation world

As a pilot with a penchant for lifelong learning, I recently attended a seminar on Crew Resource Management (CRM—sorry, business readers, CRM in this context has nothing to do with salesforce.com) at the Rockcliffe Flying Club. Essentially, its purpose was to show us how to be a better—and safer—pilot by using all the tools available to us.

As I sat there, I realized how much this course had to offer me as both a pilot and a business leader. After all, efficient operations are important in both arenas.

Even if your business isn’t as heavily regulated as the aviation industry, some simplified versions of the methods used in aviation can apply to just about any business.

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