Using a lean start-up approach in a company with 100,000 people

Arif Harbott
Arif Harbott

Working in a large organisation, such as Lloyds Banking Group with over 100,000 people in a highly regulated environment, it can sometimes take a long time to get things done.

As I have a lot of start-up experience I have recently been experimenting with how a large company can start to adopt a more lean approach in order to speed up delivery times.

Report Before
Report Before

I started with a task with narrow scope; I wanted to redesign our weekly performance report, so that it would be more effective for stakeholders and give them the information they wanted quickly.

Report After
Report After

Here is how I went about it and the lessons we learned:

Focus a small team

It is very important to get a small team together with a range of skills and views; I love the Facebook quote that teams should be small enough to feed with two pizzas. My sense is that 2-4 people is the ideal team size.

Make sure that the team is focused, clear their diaries and make it clear that there are no other tasks to do until this one is complete.

Start with an outcome/ problem statement not a solution

People tend to move to solutions far too quickly because it feels comfortable, however it is really important to define the problem/ outcome and what success looks like.

Our outcome statement was:

“To simply and elegantly communicate whether this was a good or bad week for digital performance”

Success would be that high level stakeholders could get a snapshot of performance in less than 30 seconds while still giving a level of detail that key stakeholders required. It would also need to be fully automated and fit on one page of A4 paper.

Start fast and iterate faster

I found that it was useful for everyone to work by themselves for the first iteration, in that way their thinking is not biased by strong personalities in the room. But keep it short, the first iteration should be complete within 15 minutes, this is the ideas stage and you do not want to give people enough time to polish their ideas.

Once you have your initial ideas then each person shares them with the group. It is important that as the group leader you do not let people be overly critical with other people’s ideas, you want to encourage behaviour that feedback builds on each person’s ideas.

At this stage I like to focus on ruthless simplicity and when making trade offs I optimise for simplicity and speed. The reason for this is that before you put your ideas in front of customers then you are simply guessing what your customers want, it is much easier to simply ask them what they want.

We iterated and mocked up around five designs in the first hour and at the end of the hour we were all in agreement that we should start to iterate with end customers (internal stakeholders).

Collaborate with customers early in the process

We then took our idea to a wide range of customers to get their feedback and I find that it is useful to show the old and the new design side by side so people can contrast the two.

Collect all the feedback and then weight each comment based on how important the stakeholder is. You should find that trends start to emerge and even if you do not agree with the feedback then I suggest that you act on it because your customer’s know more than you do.

Build the beta version prototype

This is a step that is often missed. After you have gained customer feedback then you need to design one more prototype and then show it to your customer’s just to check that you have translated their feedback correctly.

You may need to loop back over this step a few times as you work with different customer groups.

Build the minimum viable product to get to market quickly

Once you have a general agreement from your customers (remember you will never please everyone) then build the product quickly. Up until this stage most of the work will have been done on paper, or as wireframes, so now you need to make the vision a reality.

Again I would suggest speed over perfection, build the most important features first and worry about the nice to have features later.

Develop a feedback process for future versions

Once your project is live you need to make sure you have a feedback process that allows customers to continually feedback as their needs change over time.

The results

The result was that using this new approach we had a new weekly pack live for our weekly performance reviews live in under a week and while the new design was not perfect, our feedback suggests that customers thought that the new version was a big improvement and we will continue to listen to feedback and improve the design over the coming weeks.

Using a lean start-up approach in a company with 100,000 people

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