The Lean Event — Day Two


day one


The strategy myth

Josh Seiden

People say Lean methods are not strategic — that they allow you to test your strategic ideas, but do not allow you to set strategy. This is a misunderstanding of both strategy and of lean methods. Strategy is not, as some would hold, a detailed plan that you hand off to execution teams. Rather, it is a set of simple rules that both guide decision-making and at the same time, evolve in response to continuously changing circumstances. This means that in fact, strategy cannot exist without execution.

Lean methods unify idea-generation and idea-execution into a single whole, making them deeply strategic. What’s more, this Lean way of thinking about Strategy cascades — it works at all levels of the organization. In this talk, Josh will show how you can frame a simple, clear strategy of surprising power, and use that strategy to connect each level of your organization around a guiding vision.

— > Session notes

  • Lean is a strategic tool
  • Strategy is a system
  • Strategy cascades
  • Strategy is designed
  • Incremental vs Iterative agile
  • Incremental is one vision, lots of small pieces, massive backlog, finally deliver the vision but never revisit whether that vision has changed
  • Iterative is always revisiting the same thing and doing it again, again, again always improving the same thing. Iterative works from everything from a single button to a whole product.
  • Strategy as plan
  • Strategy as system
  • Roger Martin’s Five Questions
  1. What are our broad aspirations for our organization & the concrete goals against which we can measure our progress?
  2. Across the potential field available to us, where will we choose to play and not play?
  3. In our chosen place to play, how will we choose to win against the competitors there?
  4. What capabilities are necessary to build and maintain to win in our chosen manner?
  5. What management systems are necessary to operate to build and maintain the key capabilities?
  • Plan = big top down, design up front
  • 70% of strategies fail to meet expectations (INSEAD)
  • The local knowledge problem
  • Strategy is a continuous system
  • Neither topdown nor bottom up — leadership provides direction, team provide options and OUTCOMES are agreed
  • Mission command method


“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Von Moltke

  • The Principles of Mission Command


Different lenses to view strategic systems through


  • Strategy as hypothesis — sketch it then test it!

Metrics are the devil’s dandruff

Chris Matts

Metrics are the Devil’s Dandruff! The are useful to help refine a product but everyone knows that KPIs lead to misery, pestilence and death. Chris will introduce another approach to implementing metrics in organisations. One that uses metrics and hypotheses to foster collaboration and alignment. Just like dynamite, it would appear that metrics can be used for good as well as evil. It all depends on how you use them.

— > Session notes


  • Metrics can be used for good or evil
  • Why use metrics? To understand. To identify. To validate.
  • Pirate metrics
  • There is a hierarchy of metrics. Product Owners responsible for metric(s) that feed into an aligned portfolio that is owned by the ‘Chief Product Owner’ (CPO)who presents aggregated metrics to the ‘powers that be’.
  • This builds wider business alignment as everyone agrees the metrics they are reporting on and they all contribute to measuring the success against business goals.
  • This should minimise micro-management
  • The role of the CPO is to ensure there is coherence across all the product teams


  • The difference between metrics and KPIs is that metrics are just the measure whereas KPIs are the measure + a target (increase X by 10% in Y months)
  • As soon as you set KPIs people become risk averse and the creativity gets sucked out of teams

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” Jim Barksdale, ex-CEO of Netscape



Lean experience mapping

Jiri Jerabek

Experience Maps provide zoomed out view of user journeys, service touchpoints and contextual factors that influence user experience on holistic level. These maps are frequently based on good quality data, user research and business knowledge. Often though, these beautifully crafted maps follow the fate of other UX deliverables: they are hanged on a wall only to collect dust and be forgotten.

In his talk, Jiri will show how he turned experience map from polished deliverable into a living tool that grew with the project, communicated challenges upon a glance, helped the team to share the knowledge and provokes discussions outside of the team.

— > Session notes


  • Two big challenges for UX teams are to get a common understanding of the user needs and then to turn this in to actionable design
  • Without access to the actual end-users it doesn’t matter what tools you have you will struggle/fail
  • When provided large user research findings teams (and managers) often just cherry pick the parts that reinforce their existing beliefs and prejudices
  • So you need to find a way to communicate in a manner that provides a simple to digest, big picture that focuses on the most important findings
  • Jiri arranged a set of diary studies with users and had them share their experiences via Google+ (finally a use-case!) and had his entire multi-disciplinary team responsible for checking in and identifying/mapping the comments to an experience map.


  • The 1st iteration of the map took up an entire wall provided a glanceable, holistic view of the feedback and almost a ‘heatmap’ in the way feedback would gather in certain areas of the map
  • This also allowed them to gain valuable insight into how users fitted using the app in to their daily routines.
  • The second iteration of the map allowed them to refine it slightly so it also clearly demonstrated some basic sentiment data — so at a glance you could tell where the product was frustrating users.






Designing to learn

Melissa Perri

The sole purpose of Minimum Viable Product is to learn about your customers. This step that has been so overlooked and yet it is the most essential part to creating a product your customers will love. The more information you can uncover through experimentation, the more certainty there is about building the right thing. In this talk, Melissa will go over how to design the most effective product experimentations and Minimum Viable Products. She’ll explain how to get the rest of the organization on board with this method of testing, and how to incorporate it into overall Product Strategy.

— > Session notes

  • Over time MVP has become a ‘dirty word’
  • Often told “we don’t do that here.”
  • Even the experts can’t agree what MVP actually means
  • Partly this is because we have got much better over time at validating our ideas and there are more useful tools to support us without always writing code
  • The key is to focus on the goal — learn the customer/user need and solve that.
  • It is a process after all — not a product
  • So STOP calling it MVP
  • It is all about LEARNING by EXPERIMENTING


  • Qualaroo — useful feedback tool to learn why things are failing
  • 1/20 experiments fail according to Amazon so you have to play the long game
  • For any of this to work management needs to buy in to it and change their attitudes


  • You need to give teams space to experiment and to fail



Your brain is out to get you

Cindy Alvarez

For most teams, the biggest risks to your measuring and learning comes from within. I’m talking about cognitive biases: the mental shortcuts that our brains take everyday to help us cope with millions of bits of information we take in each minute. Cognitive biases helped us avoid being eaten by woolly mammoths — but today they threaten our ability to ruthlessly invalidate and prioritize. I’ll walk through common cognitive biases, how to spot them, and how to challenge them.

— > Session notes

Slides only for this one I’m afraid (though they are great slides!)


Teaching lean startup to kids & managers

Sophie Freiermuth

Understanding Lean Startup principles is one thing, applying them whilst working on a product another. The next level is disseminating that knowledge and experience, seeding a Lean Startup mindset in people who are not (yet) working or thinking that way. Through collaborating with large organisations (Pearson, Axa, Société Générale), teaching and training managers and subject matters expert into looking at their work, their products and their business through the refreshing lenses of Lean, I learned about resistance and excitement.

Through my work with Apps for Good and City University London’s Widening Participation programme, I embarked into seeding Lean principles and a growth mindset into children and teenager and learned about reserve and curiosity. I will share my experiences, my learnings and my failures with you, in order to encourage you to contribute also to a growth of growth mindsets.


Crossing the culture chasm

Dana Chisnell

In the world of Government, there’s a disconnect between how they seem themselves and the business they are really in. Government sees itself in the business of processing data from forms to execute legislative mandates, with IT as a necessary evil. They’re actually in the business of delivering service mediated by technology. This is not unlike how many commercial businesses that see their IT efforts.

This takes a massive shift in culture. That will come through design. Dana will explore how government is changing, how businesses can learn from what’s happening there, and the roles product managers will play in all this.

I can’t do Dana’s talk justice as it was very much a story but here are some links about how the US Federal Government has embraced agile and lean;


Ethical decision making

Cennydd Bowles

Every business is now unique in using Lean Startup principles. Experimentation, evidence, and iteration are the new normal.

Done right, it’s a healthy, focused approach. Done poorly, it becomes twisted into absurd scientism: numbers trump all, and users are reduced to mere statistics.

Digital technology’s unprecedented scale brings serious ethical responsibility. How can we balance data-driven approaches with empathy and humanity? How do we help companies see users as more than means to achieve company goals? And how do we ensure our decisions benefit not only ourselves but our wider communities and the world at large?

I’m knackered so here are some great Tweets about Cennydd’s thought provoking talk..

https://twitter.com/LeanVoices/status/725706351389872128

https://twitter.com/OliverH4ppy/status/725707956671623168