Transitioning teams to be more “lean” in their product development is not easy. This is especially true in larger, more established organizations. Years of historical momentum coupled with siloed bureaucracy and overzealous legal departments have entrenched a serial, lengthy process in many banks, insurance companies and other enterprise level orgs. Add to this the relatively late addition of design and ux services and simply declaring, much less actually proving, product hypotheses becomes an organizational impossibility.
Making a list of all of these challenges can be a lengthy endeavor. To spare you that list and to focus this article on challenges with actual solutions I’ve picked three. Again, this is far from a complete list and I encourage you to add your experiences to the discussion in the comments.
Failure is not an option
For Lean UX and Lean Startup to take hold philosophically, your company culture must allow for some level of failure. Declaring hypotheses carries an implicit admission from the product development team that they don’t know if a problem statement is true and if their proposed solution will work. To find out they will need to experiment. Experiments will fail. Management needs to be comfortable with teams learning by failing. The failures will come regardless of process. By experimenting early, your team mitigates the costs sunk into a particular solution.
If you’re facing this challenge here’s what you can do:
1. Communicate with your manager regularly. Let her know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, what it will cost, how long it will take and what you expect to learn from your experiment. Explain how you will mitigate legal and brand risks. Invite her to participate in your testing sessions. Most important is to share your learnings as soon as you have them. By keeping your manager informed you reduce their anxiety. By regularly communicating progress you’re letting them know work is getting done.
2. Crunch the numbers. Show your manager the cost of fully executing the current, unproven plan. Then show the cost of validating those hypotheses. The drastically lower cost of early failure always helps build support for Lean UX.
Your company manages to outputs, not outcomes
Many companies build lists of features and then task teams with building those lists. When the features launch, the team is rewarded for completing their work. No reward is given for the feature actually solving a business problem – only for deployment.
Lean thinking pushes us to seek the business outcome we seek to create with our feature sets and then question whether these features will get us there.
To overcome output-focused management in your org realign conversations with your stakeholders around what metric you’re trying to move with the current feature roadmap. Discuss how confident the company is that these features will actually achieve that goal. If confidence is low, ask your stakeholders to challenge your team with moving that metric. Let the team figure out which features move that metric and use the communication tactics mentioned above to keep managers at bay.
IMPORTANT: the metric you task your team with must be an outcome they can move as opposed to global corporate impacts (think reduction in shopping cart abandons as opposed to “revenue”).
Lean UX thrives on cross-functional collaboration. Silos destroy this. Enterprise level organizations often have entrenched silos that lock disciplines and business units within their own walls. Crossing these boundaries often brings cries of “that’s not my job” or the opposite, “isn’t that their job?” The truth is that it’s everyone’s job to build great products. Many of the skills your teams possess go untapped because they reach beyond their job title and ultimately their silo.
To get past this you’ll need a bit of stealth maneuvering. This is a situation that requires asking for forgiveness as opposed to permission. If you can find a few like-minded colleagues from other disciplines, grab them and put together a small skunkworks effort to tackle an annoying problem the business has. It doesn’t have to be big – just enough to show what a motivated, cross-functional team can get done in a short amount of time.
Showcase your success to your managers. Tell them how you were able to get all of this done so quickly. Prove the power of silo-busting by showing it’s accomplishments.
These are not small problems and the tactics here will only get you started overcoming them. What challenges have you had? How have you tried (successfully or not) to get past them?
Share your feedback in the comments.
P.S. – to learn how others in this position have implemented Lean UX in the enterprise consider attending Lean Day: UX – 9 amazing speakers will share their insight on this exact topic.