Thursday, September 20, 2012

Workshop: Lean Startup in the Enterprise with Giff Constable, Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

On December 4 at The Lean Startup Conference, three of New York's top UX designers will lead a workshop we're really excited about, Lean Startup in the Enterprise. We hope our Q&A here with two of them here today gives you a taste of their sensibility and what you can expect from their session. Gold and Platinum Passes get you into the workshops, and this one is particularly suited to people who are implementing Lean Startup ideas is established companies.

Coincidentally, NewContext—the presenter of this year’s Lean Startup Conference--announced today that these designers, all of them founders of Proof, have joined their company. The crew comprises: Jeff Gothelf, author of the upcoming O'Reilly book Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business; Josh Seiden, who was previously the program director for LUXr’s New York City practice, was responsible for design at Liquidnet, and is a founder and past President of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA); and Giff Constable, who has built and marketed consumer applications, games, and enterprise software for many of the biggest companies in the world.

Josh and Jeff answered some questions for us this week:

What aspect of lean startup methods most inspires you?

Josh: I'm really inspired by the customer development angle of Lean Startup. As a designer, my focus has always been on helping teams see value through the eyes of the user. It's exciting for me that the Lean Startup community shares this definition of value.

Jeff: The ability to get a realistic look at our proposed ideas much earlier than ever before. Also, the role of the customer in the process makes the focus of the effort about them—what works best to solve their needs—as opposed to what is best for those involved in the business.

What makes it hard for companies to implement this process?

Josh: So many companies measure employee productivity by measuring output. How many lines of code did you write? Did you deliver the specification on time? But these outputs do not create value. It takes a big shift in management culture to allow teams to pursue value directly—in other words, to measure teams based on the outcomes of their work. 

Jeff: Lean teams need many lines of support from their organizations but the most important one is the freedom to experiment and fail. Without that, the entire build/measure/learn loop collapses into a sea of red tape and CYA activities. Teams need to know that it's safe for them to run experiments, learn from those and then run some more. This freedom is new to many managers who are used to traditional command-and-control styles of management. Lean teams cannot be micromanaged. 

What will people take away from your workshop?

Josh: We're really excited by the potential of Lean Startup in the enterprise, and we know lots of other folks share that enthusiasm. We'll be sharing case studies and techniques, and we expect a lively discussion with others who are putting these methods into practice. This is going to be a very responsive session, so we're hoping that folks come ready to ask questions and share lessons.

Jeff: Attendees of our workshop will hear case studies from the enterprise about how other organizations have tackled the challenges of implementing Lean Startup and what the outcomes were. In addition, we will open the floor to a conversation with our attendees to get a sense of where they're struggling, what's worked/failed for them and sources for their inspiration. Attendees will take away a tactical list of tools and techniques to start implementing these ideas in their organizations the next day. 

Giff, Jeff and Josh are all popular speakers. These videos should give a sense of why. Here’s Giff on “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses." Jeff on “Demystifying Design." Josh on “Replacing Requirements with Hypotheses."

If you’re thinking about registering for The Lean Startup Conference, bear in mind that we’re selling early-bird tickets in blocks. When this block sells out—as of this posting, the current block is nearly gone--the price goes up. Register now for a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend the workshops!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Workshop: The Lean Entrepreneur with Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits

 This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

Ever since Eric announced Patrick and Brant's new book The Lean Entrepreneur (with illustrations by FAKEGRIMLOCK), we've been excited to be part of the book launch. Coming up in just a few short months, you'll have a chance to go in-depth with the authors and their book at an awesome workshop.

As we’ve mentioned here once or ten times before, this year, The Lean Startup Conference will include a second day, December 4, with in-demand workshops from established leaders in our community. Gold and Platinum Passes get you into the workshops, and we’ve conducted a series of short interviews with the workshop leaders to help you better understand how they think and what they’re offering.

If you follow Lean Startup experts, you’ve probably come across Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, co-authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development and The Lean Entrepreneur, and leaders of our workshop “The Lean Entrepreneur: Embrace the Unknown to Go Big.” Patrick recently answered a few questions for us.

What aspect of Lean Startup methods most inspires you?

Patrick: The most powerful Lean Startup concept may be the embracing of "I don't know." So instead of believing in what we call The Myth of the Visionary, wherein a successful entrepreneur is someone who has seen the future with a fully formed, crystallized product in his or her head and so then locks themselves in a garage until product launch, upon which they achieve overnight success, the Lean Startup teaches entrepreneurs to recognize what they don't actually know, and then how to learn what value they can create, for whom, and how to market, sell and deliver that value. This learning comes from interacting with customers, running experiments, and using data to help inform decisions. The Lean Startup methodology embraces the unknown, the uncertainty of the market, and teaches entrepreneurs to use small failures to achieve big successes.

What makes it hard for companies to implement this process?

Patrick: It depends on the stage of the business. Big businesses need a way to develop an internal ecosystem for rapid experimentation on truly innovative product ideas. But they get stuck when measuring new endeavors against existing, core-business metrics. Combining Horizon Planning with Lean Startup is a path out of this dilemma.

Startups with some amount of traction tend to think they're "done" with Lean Startup. But often they quickly find themselves on another plateau that threatens the business. Where are new customers going to come from? Are we building the right features and products? How do we scale? If properly understood and implemented, you're never done with Lean Startup. As aspects of your business model become known, you transition some activities to full-bore execution, but you must continue to perform learning and improvement activities to scale and win.

Early-stage startups are taught to believe in the vision. Vision is important, but just as important is understanding that the market is the final arbiter, and what is not known will be a greater part of the success or failure than what is known. So it's vitally important for entrepreneurs to have an iterative, experimenting, data-informed process for transforming the unknown to known, for discovering and validating the value being created.

What will people take away from your workshop?

Patrick: Market uncertainty can be described by an innovation spectrum stretching from lesser market uncertainty when undertaking sustaining innovation to greater market uncertainty when pursuing truly disruptive innovation. Whether you’re in a startup or in the enterprise, where you sit on the innovation spectrum determines how you will apply Lean Startup methods. In this session, people will learn to determine where they fit on the spectrum to help determine strategy and tactics for the future. They’ll also learn about the Value Stream and what waste looks like in a Lean Startup; the Anti-Segment (those people you don’t want to listen to) and how to segment your market so you’re not trying to be all things to all people. Attendees will leave knowing the value they’re creating, for whom, and how to deliver that value.

This video features Cooper and Vlaskovits speaking at UC Irvine about Lean Startup.

If you’re thinking about registering for The Lean Startup Conference, bear in mind that space for the workshops is limited, and that we have a block of early-bird tickets on sale right now. When this block sells out, the price goes up. Register now for a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend the workshops!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Workshop: Lean Analytics with Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz

 This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

If you’ve been following along at home, we hope you’ve noticed that this year The Lean Startup Conference will be a two-day affair, with top-quality workshops on December 4. Gold and Platinum Passes get you into the workshops, and we’ve conducted a series of short interviews with the workshop leaders to give them a chance to share their insights with the broader community.

Lean Analytics: Using Data to Build a Better Startup Faster” will be led by Alistair Croll, a serial entrepreneur and the author of three books on web performance, analytics, and IT operations, and Ben Yoskovitz, author of the Instigator Blog and VP Product at GoInstant. The two are co-authors of the forthcoming Lean Analytics book.

What aspect of Lean Startup methods most inspires you?

Alistair: The one advantage of a disruptor is they have nothing to lose—no rules to follow, no risks to consider—compared to the big, incumbent organizations they're trying to replace. So what I like is that it focuses on fast iteration and learning, which provides an asymmetric advantage to the underdog. It levels the playing field. Lean favors the entrepreneur who can ask the right question, rather than guess the best answer.

Ben: For me, it's the idea that you can be diligent and disciplined in your approach to building a company (as opposed to wandering around aimlessly, hoping you'll hit the mark) without losing your big vision and the dreaming that you have to do as an entrepreneur. Lean startup isn't intended to "suck the life" out of entrepreneurship; quite the opposite--it helps guide you through the process, and provides the foundation for achieving bigger goals, more quickly.

What makes it hard for companies to implement this process?

Alistair: All entrepreneurs need some amount of reality distortion just to get out of bed in the morning. But that also means they lie to themselves, and they develop an emotional attachment to the things they're building. They're necessarily proud of them, committed to them. Yet creating a startup is fundamentally a destructive act: killing a particular feature; stopping a clever campaign that isn't working; ignoring a market segment because it's too soon.

In many ways, Lean Startup isn't about building a product—it's about building a tool to show you what product to build. Along with creating the product itself, entrepreneurs have to create the instrumentation that makes the product a learning machine, and that requires a lot of focus. It's a lot easier, and certainly feels more heroic, to "wing it." But a methodical, persistent approach is the better choice if you care about building something people actually want.

Ben: For starters, it's hard. Discipline of any kind is hard. Any of us that have tried to get into an exercise routine post Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays can attest to that. It's also very early still--the ideas, concepts and principles of Lean Startup are still taking shape and being molded. Unfortunately, people look too quickly--like the next fad diet--for the perfect answer. Of course there isn't a perfect answer, there isn't an absolute formula. It just doesn't work that way.

What will people take away from your workshop?

Alistair: We'll share some basic business models that most startups will recognize, and look at what's "normal" for those models, so entrepreneurs have a baseline against which to compare themselves. And we'll spend time talking about the many case studies—and cautionary tales—we've learned from companies we've worked with and interviewed. Attendees will learn how to keep score, when to step on the gas, and when to rethink the fundamentals of their business.

Ben: I hope they'll gain a new appreciation for metrics and how to wrestle them into something meaningful and valuable. Almost everyone understands that metrics are important, but we want to provide some narrowly focused ideas around how to use metrics, and how to think about metrics in order to succeed. Ideas like The One Metric That Matters or the Penny Machine go a long way to making analytics approachable, and giving people the confidence to jump into their own numbers and tease out the value.

Here’s video of Alistair in action at a recent Ignite show, talking about why tomorrow, serendipity will be for the rich. Here’s Ben speaking about his life as an entrepreneur.

Here are two reasons to register today: 1) space for the workshops is limited; and 2) we have a block of early-bird tickets on sale right now. When this block sells out, the price goes up. Register now for a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend the workshops.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Workshop: Validate with Janice Fraser & Laura Klein

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.
As we explained last week, we have stellar workshops scheduled for December 4--the second day of The Lean Startup Conference. Because the workshops require a bigger commitment (you need a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend), we wanted to give you more information about what you can expect. Herewith, then, is the first in a series of interviews with our workshop presenters.

Validate Your Learning Engines” will be led by Janice Fraser, Founder/CEO of LUXr, and Laura Klein, Director of Product & UX at One Jackson--both authors of forthcoming books on Lean UX. We asked them a few questions to help you get inside their heads. Here’s what they said:

What aspect of Lean Startup methods most inspires you?

Janice: Reframing our gut instincts as “a hypothesis I'm working with right now.” It honors the instincts that every entrepreneur has, but also gives us permission to be wrong and explore other possibilities. 

Laura: I love the fact that everything is measurable. Making everything a measurable hypothesis means that we can see the impact that design and usability have on the bottom line of the business. This not only helps the company and the users, but it helps us become better designers, and it also justifies money spent on UX. 

What makes it hard for companies to implement this process?

Janice: There is no process yet! Lean Startup is a way of thinking, and right now everyone has to sort of figure out a process on their own. I'm glad to be part of an active community that's figuring out how to put Lean Startup into practice.

Laura: The most frequent problem I've run into is the desire by engineers to have some criteria by which they can consider something “done.” Nothing's ever “done” in Lean. We iterate and learn. I can't tell you before you start work on a project what the exact acceptance criteria are going to be, because everything depends on how the user reacts to the changes. There's also, I think, still a fundamental misunderstanding of Lean in some circles. There's the belief that Lean means cheap or not well designed. If you don't understand the methodology, you obviously can't implement it well. 

What will people take away from your workshop?

Janice: Laura and I are both SUPER PRACTICAL. Participants will leave equipped with specific, concrete techniques for doing better experiments, getting more out of their time with customers, and measuring the right things more effectively. 

Laura: You're going to learn practical, hands-on methods for validating hypotheses quickly and efficiently. You can't be lean unless you know how to validate and measure. We're going to give you specific directions for how to do that. We're also going to show you some incredibly helpful design techniques that will let you respond to your user research and create a product that customers love. 

To show you Janice and Laura in action, we’ve grabbed some past talks for you to check out. Here's Janice speaking at MX 2011 on Crushing the Boulder: User Experience and the Lean Startup. And here's Laura participating in a panel at Startup Lessons Learned 2010 called But What About Design? (Laura’s at far right.)

Here are two reasons to register today: 1) space for the workshops is limited; and 2) we have a block of early-bird tickets on sale right now. When this block sells out, the price goes up. Register now for a Gold or Platinum Pass to attend the workshops.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A full day of Lean Startup Workshops on December 4, 2012

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

This year, for the first time, we've added a day of workshops and site visits to The Lean Startup Conference. We’re really proud to present the workshops, which we're holding on December 4, and we wanted to tell you more about them. (We’ll talk about the cool site visits in a separate post.)

If you’re looking to dive deep on Lean Startup skills, our workshop sessions provide professional development at a serious bargain. They’re led by established experts in the community, and the rooms we’re holding these in are limited, so you’ll get a chance to ask your questions and share your experience. We’ve just opened a new block of early-bird tickets, and you'll need a Gold or Platinum Pass in order to get into the workshops. (Keep in mind that the price goes up when this block sells out.)

We have a slew of workshops you can choose from—the last two just added:
  • Validate Your Learning Engines with Janice Fraser and Laura Klein. In this workshop, Fraser, Founder/CEO of LUXr and Klein, Director of Product & UX at One Jackson will offer practical techniques for getting and using customer feedback. You’ll learn how to conduct the right kind of customer interviews, prioritize high-risk assumptions, design experiments, and measure the effectiveness of your product (not your marketing).
  • The Lean Entrepreneur: Embrace the Unknown to Go Big with Patrick Vlaskovits and Brant Cooper. Lean startup principles work differently in different environments. In this workshop, the authors of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development and The Lean Entrepreneur help you determine the optimal strategy and tactics for your kind of company, focusing on customer development and market segmentation.
  • Build Successful (and Sane) Iterative Apps with Kelly Goto, Principal at gotomedia. In this workshop, Goto will take you through the application development process and shre behind-the-scenes techniques for rapid prototyping. You’ll learn how to enhance your current process to include iterative usability testing cycles and how to verify development requirements before you code.
  • Lean Analytics: Using Data to Build a Better Startup Faster with Alistair Croll and Ben Yoskovitz. In this workshop, Lean Analytics authors Croll, Founder of Solve For Interesting, and Yoskovitz, VP of Product at GoInstant, will teach you how to use analytics to find product/market fit before your money runs out. You’ll come away with techniques for: putting data to work in a startup; understanding the long funnel from awareness to engagement; finding the One Metric That Matters; and applying analytics at every stage of the business, from need discovery through to exit.
  • Lean Startup in the Enterprise with Proof co-founders Josh Seiden, Jeff Gothelf and Giff Constable. Lean Startup techniques have tremendous promise—and have delivered tremendous value—in the enterprise. But applying these techniques inside large organizations means grappling with obstacles that small firms never encounter. From functional silos to risk-averse managers, from compliance officers to global markets, practitioners who have tried to make headway can find frustration at every turn. In this workshop, Constable, Gothelf and Seiden—plus special guests—will present case studies, discuss lessons learned, and lead a lively round table discussion that will further your understanding of Lean Startup in enterprise environments and provide concrete advice you can apply to the challenges you face in your organizations.

  • Engineering Your Sales Process with Sean Murphy and Scott Sambucci. All companies, even those that take a lean approach, face these problems in B2B sales: you can’t get potential customers to call back; they won’t make a decision; they seem to like a never-ending beta, but they will not buy; your deals stall. This interactive workshop will help you learn from these problems by using conscious planning and experimentation. Traditional sales training stresses “every no moves you closer to a yes.” Murphy and Sambucci’s approach to engineering your sales process says instead, “What looks like noise is often actually data.” Designing and debugging a repeatable sales process is key to a sustainable business, and this workshop will teach you how to diagnose common problems to determine likely root causes. You will leave with a scientific approach to understanding your customers' needs and their buying process so that you can scale your business in harmony with it.

All of our previous early-bird blocks sold out quickly, and we expect this one will, too. Gold and Platinum Passes get you into the workshops. For the best price, register today.