Tag Archives: Lean Startup

Just Start It – Teaching the kids of today to become the startup leaders of tomorrow

I want to tell you all about a fantastic educational program that is running in Western Australia called Just Start It.  It teaches young people about lean startup by actually do it.

They learn to take an idea and bring it to market, pivoting to correct any wrong assumptions along the way from feedback they gain for their real products from real customers.

This year was the first year that the program ran with 11 schools taking part and some fantastic entries being created like the Beyond Bullying and Numbox applications.

Next year, Program Leader, Lainey Wesier is looking to take the program further and introduce it to more kids next year.  You know in the future we can’t rely on a generation of job dependents, we want our kids to be creating the opportunities of tomorrow in the classroom.  What a great life experience and a great way to kickstart life!  This can only be motivational 🙂  They build something and build important life skills along the way.

But Lainey, her team and our next generation can’t do this by themselves.  They need help also in the form of dollars.  Yes this sort of thing just doesn’t happen out of free will – there is a lot of that already been given out.  Just Start It have a crowd funding campaign underway and they are looking for your help.  Visit the crowd funding site and give what you can in an investment for the future, a future that will see your sponsorship deliver benefits in so many ways for our next generation and also for yourself.

Just Start It – Yes Lets make it happen!

Visit the site to find out more and hopefully become a sponsor.


Running Lean by Ash Maurya

Recommend this book Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean Series). I will review when time allows. Here’s a great video introduction.

Keep along side Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Is my startup idea failing?

A few months ago I created my landing page for my startup idea.  So far not one single notification or download.

Did I publicize it enough?  Is my next pivot to abandon it?

Here’s the direct link to the idea.

Lean Enterprise Presentation by Barry O’Reilly and Gary O’Brien of Thoughtworks

We witnessed a short and sharp presentation on Lean Enterprise: Adopting Continuous Delivery, DevOps, and Lean Startup at Scale by Barry O’Reilly and Gary O’Brien.  It was a bit of a plug for the new book.  Quite a good talk but I fear the audience didn’t have enough of the heavy hitters in town for it to make an impact. I mean Government Ministers, CEOs, Directors. Preaching to the converted.  Well we will all try our best at the level we are at.  The groundswell is building I hope.

Gary Barber did a great illustration of the evening’s events:



The talk was essentially about bringing Lean Startup and other Agile and Lean concepts into the boardroom.  Here’s my recollection of the presentation with some opinions and interpretations, experiences interspersed and links to my other content.  Admittedly some of this new as well so I try and relate it back to what I know and maybe, hopefully, generate positive feedback to increase mine and other’s knowledge .

Getting to the Right Thing Quicker

Essentially we should be getting to the right thing quicker.  Us in the Agile space have been working in the ‘Sandwich’ where by delivery is stuck between two very thick inception and delivery phases.   The inception phase is the largest waste with much theorizing instead of experimentation and collaboration and top down command and control.  What we need is a new organisational design – something that has been talked about on the fringes but seems to be gaining some traction.

Change the Design Means Creating Safety

So the new design needs to be adaptive and resilient.  To achieve this fear needs to be driven out and an environment of safety should be created.  This idea of safety is gaining more and more discussion.  The Japanese called it Anzen and Josh Kerievsky has made it his next focus insofar as software delivery is concerned.   Governance changes completely.  Instead is contracts which are laden with many clauses, this calls for complete transparency and implies greater collaboration.  Less adherence to contract and process and more to the end result, that is customer value!  Customers cannot and should not value contract adherence and process driven metrics.  The example of GOV.UK is an example others are looking to.

Traditional Process is W.R.O.N.G.

So, you may not have noticed but something startling has occurred in the last 50 years.  87% of Fortune 500 companies are gone.  If this is something you find acceptable then stop reading NOW!  If your values include long lived, purposeful and humane then this is more for you.

For us in I.T. with been managed as a cost centre.  A cost engenders a mindset of cost reduction.  But the successful organisations going forward value IT as a strategic capability.  Therefore this is something used to increase competitive advantage or value creation.

Creating value needs to factor in observation and adaptation.  This looks like Demings PDCA cycle.  Most organisations don’t explicitly include Check and Act, only cycling on Plan and Do and not reacting to feedback is a coherent manner or not all.



Dangerous Mindsets Persist

It seems like common sense.  But the excuses are often the same.  “I’m too Busy’, ‘It’s too Complicated’.  But we can see those who reject these mindsets are succeeding.  And just to prove it we have the case study of GOV.UK, the all inclusive website for the public in the UK which began with startup principles with only a team of 6 people and is now grown organically to 600 people via proving up concepts at a small cost rather than expensive feasibility, discovery and planning phases that aren’t nimble enough or reject new information inputs.

Budgets Create Opaque Organisations

The annual budget cycle does not promote transparency.  Budgets are allocated and each group will guard them.  It’s not safe to give up your budget when you don’t need it.  Your spend it to ensure your retain your budget.

This is an instance of not providing safety.  It’s not safe to give up your budget for another area that may need it.  This creates the gaming organisation and management by accountancy rather than the ultimate goal of customer value.  By  creating safety this begets transparency and this will eliminate duplication.  Therefore reallocation of capital can occur and therefore the most efficient use of that capital.

Safety Creates Positive Behaviour

Creating openness and transparency results in extraordinary changes in behaviour.  Instead of hoarding allocated budget, the unnamed company mentioned as an example during the talk, had a director return $18 million back to be reallocated to the next most important item on the backlog.

Agile and Lean Tools Operate at the Board Level

Directors and/or members of the board are speaking more often generating feedback and sharing learning’s.  They apply rapid estimation techniques based on relative sizing (Planning Poker anyone) to size up and value capabilities they think they need.  They have built up an intimate understanding of their teams abilities over a period of months to be able to spend relative small amounts of time on this task.

The progression to actually trying to development these capabilities.  This requires some more agility.  Without going into too much detail or specifics the following formula is utilized.  These terms should be familiar to those will versed in Agile and Lean:

WSJF = (Customer Value + Cost of Delay + Risk of Opportunity) / Job Size

WSJF is the weighted shortest job first.  A simple way to prioritize.  Job Size is the relative measure and is not time based (see my previous article).   The Job Size cannot be so large that important feedback cannot be gained.  We need to get feedback to be able to pivot and cancel the project at minimal cost or continue on, reacting to that feedback and continue to fund and build that capability.

We should be able to ask the question – ship or not.  This is a key agile concept captured through several abbreviations like MVP, MUST, MMF, PSI.  The graph below reminds me of the stacked pareto that Jeff Sutherland talks about in mentioned in my Product Owner article.  Kind a like that one better.



Some Nuts and Bolts

  • Avoid the CAPEX/OPEX dichotomy to drive decision making.  It’s all directed to customer value so it’s all the same. (admittedly this may be an oversimplification, but I found this article from Dan Greening interesting)
  • Stop Pushing as this generates more cost.  Pull systems work best and don’t overload.
  • Use the true meaning of earned value.  Value delivered to the customer.
  • Value is a Yes/No question.  It’s unequivocal.
  • But value is a qualitative measure as well.  Develop new metrics.  A great example is the Love Metric.  How much do the customers love the product.
  • Accept small losses to get the big win
  • Validate with Evidence!
  • Create Long Lived Teams, Cross Pollinate Knowledge – This can halve the Cost of Delivery!
  • Leave time to innovate. It was described as horizon 3 in the presentation. I just call it a component of slack which I wrote about here.

More Big Ticket Takeaways – Go and See

Ignore the meetings just and go and see for yourself.    This means eliminating the hierarchy, a transformation from a Hierarchy Aligned organisation to a Value Aligned organisation.

See what is really happening and make it visible.  Map your value stream and see what the components of delivery of a product contains.

Measure the value and have a systems approach to improvement.  Measurements occur at team levels and should factor in the entire system not just your sphere of influence. That is eliminating the gaming culture.

Factor in time for innovation.

And as GOV.UK shows – start small!

Teamzone – a lean startup for community based sporting clubs

After reading Eric Ries momentous book a couple of weeks ago, The Lean Startup, I was inspired to try it out for myself.

More specifically the concept of Minimal Viable Product or MVP.  Now MVP is a well know concept in  Agile Software Development and sometimes goes under different guises like Minimal Marketable Feature  (MMF), or Minimal Useful Feature Set (MUF) and Potentially Shipable Increment (PSI).

Actually to align Ries’s MVP with these is not totally true.   In agile speak MMF, MUF and PSI usually come with a definition of done which implies a sturdy definition of done and therefore utmost quality is delivered.  However for a startup this is not totally necessary, at least not in the early stages when one is seeking feedback.

This stringent definition of done is relaxed in favour of delivering just enough functionality to gain feedback.  That is weighing the economic costs of delivering great quality and maybe too many features with the shoestring budget nature of a startup whereby some quality can be forsaken to gain the feedback from the market.   Eric says in the book, when could in the dilemma of what to put in err on the less than the more.  This also goes to the premise of validated learning through small experiments as opposed to building something over a period of months or years that customers refuse to use.

The trick is then to put information gained into practice quickly.  If it’s a goer then work to start delivering quality but still tempered with the lean mindset.  Early adopters will forgive clunkyness but not for long.  But if the product does not gain favourable feedback then Eric says to pivot to change the product based on the feedback or to quickly abandon it and move onto the next thing – hopefully with a good learning experience to apply later on.  This still leaves one feeling unnerved, that is leaving out features and perhaps the accompanying criticism, but I’m going to have faith in my ability to pivot and in others to provide meaningful feedback.

So with this mindset in place, and still with not a lot of experience with the Lean Startup idea, I’m embarking on a learning experience a Genchi Gembutsu if you will on several levels.   I’ve created a startup for an idea to create a social environment for sporting clubs – to make it fun.  That is the vision to make it FUN – a fun social environment for sporting clubs supported by modem technology.

So with this in mind with the help of Agile and Lean trainers, About Agile, I’ve created a website with just the one application.  It’s an instantiation of the Minimal Viable Product or MVP idea and the first iteration of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback cycle.

So the website in a simple WordPress site with a simple template which took about a day to knock up.

In it there is just one application from last year which is on offer.  This, hopefully, is a fun social application for a sporting club.  It allows a club to collect votes for a Best and Fairest or Most Valuable Player vote count.  With this data a PowerPoint presentation can be created and used with a large TV screen or projector to present the round by round votes.

This application, rough and ready as it is, is just an an Excel spreadsheet which can be submitted to the website. Upon submittal I will process the data and send back the powerpoint presentation.  This program took 3 or 4 days last year to create.  Notice that there is a manual step in there.  I could automate the processing as well, but I want to see first.  If I get many requests then it makes sense to do this.  If I get 5 a year, well the priority for that feature goes down quite a bit or gets dropped completely.

The site is being hosted by About Agile and the link is teamzone.aboutagile.com.   There you will see more information about how the ethos of the project and how to use the materials.

Hoping for feedback.  No feedback is just a good as bad feedback and that’s Ok and we move on.  Positive feedback will supply the encouragement to continue the project and lets the users of the site drive it to where it should go.  I’m hoping for a zoom-out pivot whereby requests for other features will grow the website and a viral model to supply the new customers.  A just-in-time scaling model will apply if successful. Progress will be documented in subsequent blog posts on this site.

I’m also sure there are others like Eric Ries who could critique my approach.  I welcome this and encourage this and accept the unnerving nature of feedback.  I could easily have missed some details.  I’ve read the book once and this is the first practice attempt arising from that.