We have been applying the Lean Startup methodology at Telefónica I+D since 2012, therefore, we have been pioneers. Two years ago, in 2014, a colleague and myself shared at the Lean Startup conference in San Francisco the main learnings of our experience applying Lean Startup in our innovation projects. Since then Telefónica has become a world reference in this area, as well as a case study in some of the top business schools.
During the last three years, I have been either a speaker or a mentor at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. This has given me the opportunity to witness how it has evolved from a conference were both attendants and speakers where mainly from the startup world to having more and more people from big companies both speaking and attending the conference. Another main change I have observed is that Lean Startup is becoming somehow an umbrella of different methodologies and approaches like Design Thinking, Lean UX or Agile, hence the boundaries are disappearing taking the best of the different worlds and adopting what works best in each case.
Applying these methodologies in big and established companies is not easy, there are several challenges you have to overcome. Learning from others’ experiences is usually very helpful. Therefore, each year more and more people attend the conference interested in taking advantage of the learnings both attendants and speakers are willing to share.
During the Lean Startup Conference that took place recently in November 2016, I had the opportunity to learn how IBM has applied Design Thinking with its focus on user outcomes, constant reinvention and empowered teams to create a culture of design and to revitalize product development. How GE, a 124-year-old company, is applying Lean Startup since 2013 with their Fastworks framework and how they have engaged 250.000 people in this culture change. How Cisco runs Innovation challenges twice a year where they set challenges to go from ideas to something important. Or how Pearson has used Lean Startup and Agile to define their Product Live Cycle process for managing their product portfolio.
Three particular main learnings or tips resonate quite frequently in this conference, when people from companies that apply these methodologies share their experience, either in a talk or in the several conversations you have the opportunity to have: you have to start small; you have to learn how to adapt these methodologies to you context and learn how to make them work; and ensuring leadership’s support is key. How to implement these tips in their company is still the biggest uncertainty attendees hope to solve in this event.
Building on the additional experience we have gone through at Telefónica, in November 2016 I shared at the Conference about what I consider the four of the most important strategies if you are ready to jump in a Lean Startup adventure:
- Hacking your culture. You need to learn how to hack your culture. You have to understand it and find a way to make things work. You have to engage with many people from different organisations to understand how they work and explain them what you need from them and why, at the same time even find the way you can help them or make their lives easier, so it becomes a win-win collaboration.
- Getting buy-in from leadership. When you work with the Lean Startup methodology and you can bring to the table market validations and customer traction which gives you serious credibility. However deliberately getting support from top management and stakeholders is still key if you want innovation projects to move forward in a large company.
- Setting the right environment. If you want teams to work like a startup within a big company, you have to create what Eric Ries calls islands of freedom in his latest book, where you trust them and give them autonomy to make decisions.
- Experimentation in a big company. Telefonica, like other big companies, has an established brand, a reputation, an existing portfolio, and existing processes and organisations, and, of course, there is also the regulation of the market. When you are in a big company there are certain experiments that we cannot do just like startups, we surely experiment but we need to make some adjustments.
It is interesting how the Lean Startup world and in particular its major event, the Lean Startup Conference, is evolving along the years. In June this year, for the first time there will be a Lean Startup Conference in Europe, in London.
A great opportunity, no doubt, to learn what the European big companies and startups are doing in this arena.
Most of the Lean Startup key notes talks are accessible here.