The Lean Scale-up

October 16, 2014

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Startups have been all the craze for the last 15 years or so and the two bubbles : 1.0 (dot com’s) and 2.0 (social apps). One could argue that their most impressive achievement is succeeding in making technology entrepreneurship sexy and successful entrepreneurs as glamorous as rock stars, despite the swimming pools flip-flap.

There have been many blog posts about what a startup is and what is not but I’ve always thought there were something missing. Until I read this essay by Paul Graham, co-founder of startup incubator Y Combinator. The name of this essay does not hold so much suspense : Startup = Growth. The guy behind the success of dozens of startups including Airbnb explains why. At this point, I can only recommend you to read this essay and come back, as this is probably the most insightful 15mns read you can have about start-up. (Go ahead, take your time, I’ll be waiting here).

First takeaway :

For a company to grow really big, it must (a) make something lots of people want, and (b) reach and serve all those people.

My perspective is that startups have put great focus on (a), the external part of the challenge, mostly thanks to Eric Ries formalization of Lean Startup. However, I believe that these small companies sometimes are left wanting on (b), i.e internal processes and management. As a result, even young companies succeeding in finding their audience and target customer sometimes struggle to deliver and to achieve promised results and growth.

This is where the Lean Scale-up gets in … Read the rest of this entry »

We are having more fun, in part because of the internet. We also are having more cheap fun. But we are coming up on short on the revenue side so it is harder to pay our debts, whether individuals, business or governments” (Tyler Cowen). Twenty first century Information and Communication Technology, in short, is failing the prime test of being economically significant. 

This meta quote, quote about McAfee and Brynjolfsson quoting economist Tyler Cowen, is taken from the Second Machine Age. In the section of the book the quote is taken from, the authors wonder whether ICT are General Purpose Technology such as steam engine or electricity, i.e pervasive technologies that change the way we live, work and do business. They are adamant they are, yet they question the economic return of these technologies.

A strongly recommended read to understand the profound transformation our times are going through.

 

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Un sujet qui me trotte dans la tête depuis une bonne année maintenant. Plus précisément depuis l’interview de Catherine Chabiron en charge du programme Lean chez Faurecia. Un des éléments que Catherine identifie comme structurant dans l’amélioration significative de sa DSI : la ré-internalisation des équipes :

We believe in insourcing rather than outsourcing, to maintain in house competences on our core services

L’autre source d’inspiration est cet article du toujours pertinent Bertrand Duperrin sur les conditions de succès de la transformation digitale. La deuxième partie de ce billet va donc questionner l’applicabilité de l’orthodoxie en stratégie SI (dont l’externalisation) dans ce contexte de la digitalisation de l’entreprise, un des enjeux majeurs des DSIs pour les années à venir.

Read the rest of this entry »

I had a second article published today on InfoQ : Seven changes to remove waste from your software process.The first one being quite popular (a few weeks in the site top articles) Ben asked me to write another one, which I gratefully did.

It can be seen as another technical (and, I hope, actionable) article on my journey towards Lean while scaling agility to a full organization.

Thanks to Ben Linders for editing and Ana Maria Ciobatoru for her work in making it look great.

I have been in charge of implementing Lean Software Development in a software vendor house for about 2 years. During this time I have been coaching a large team throughout the development of two successive versions (let’s call them V2 and V3) of our enterprise solution.

We have gradually implemented seven major changes in our organization that have helped our R&D department to remove waste from our software development process with encouraging results. This essay is about implementing these seven changes, the results we obtained and what we have learned during the journey.

Read the article here.

Ed Catmull is co-founder and president of Pixar. After having reached his life long goal (creating the first computer animated feature film) with Toy Story in 1996, Ed faced a terrible dilemma : what should be his next goal ? Looking at smart leaders and once successful companies stumbling and collapsing, Ed soon identified this new goal : overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.

This is what this book is all about. Sure there are some delightful back stories of some of the most inspiring animated movies of all time. There also are the little secrets of working closely with Steve Jobs. But the most valuable takeaways of this book are elsewhere.

They are in the way Ed Catmull (with the helped of Amy Wallace) describes the path that a rather successful leader in a creative industry followed to protect Pixar and then Disney Animation from these unseen forces and to make both company strive. Interestingly enough, the core of his management and leadership practices lies in Deming principles and Japanese management : a book hypertextual could not miss … Read the rest of this entry »

This is an excerpt from Time article about “How an unlikely group of high-tech wizards revived Obama’s troubles HealthCare.gov website”.

This excerpt focus on the three rules theses wizards apply when rescuing the project a set of IT services companies has lead to disaster. All Agile principles : stand-up meetings, developers get the call, get managers out of the way, solving problems completely, reduce work in progress etc …). An awesome story.

Rule 1: “The war room and the meetings are for solving problems. There are plenty of other venues where people devote their creative energies to shifting blame.”
Rule 2: “The ones who should be doing the talking are the people who know the most about an issue, not the ones with the highest rank. If anyone finds themselves sitting passively while managers and executives talk over them with less accurate information, we have gone off the rails, and I would like to know about it.” (Explained Dickerson later: “If you can get the managers out of the way, the engineers will want to solve things.”)
Rule 3: “We need to stay focused on the most urgent issues, like things that will hurt us in the next 24–48 hours.”

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This is a conversation I had together with #e20 super-connector Luis Suarez on Twitter whilst at the E20 Summit.

During the engagement panel, he stated that employee engagement was a problem, an idea you can find in many management books (Year without pants by Berkun or Flat Army by Pontefract are recent examples) articles or talks. Even this blog elaborated on that subject a while back, a post which, in restrospect, might seem a bit shallow.

Most of these resources draw on Gallup study who claims that this costs about $US400 Billion per year to the US economy, which, I agree, is a terrible human and financial  waste.

But I wonder : is this employee engagement a problem or a symptom ? Luis insisted that Social Business will help in fixing this. This is where I come to have a rhetoric issue … Read the rest of this entry »

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