July 24, 2014

All Posts By: David Bland

Agile Coaching Blog

David Bland

About David Bland

David has enjoyed success using lean and agile techniques at several companies in San Francisco and Washington DC. He joined his first dot com startup in 1999 and helped lead it to a 13 million dollar acquisition in 2006. Currently David brings startup thinking into large organizations to foster corporate entrepreneurship. He can usually be found writing, speaking and coaching around lean startup, business model generation and kanban.

Stop Replacing Trust with Process – The Path to Lasting Change

Does it seem you spend more time talking about the work than actually doing the work?

Do you find it takes longer and longer to deliver anything of value to the customer?

Did someone just create a new phase gate or process that you need to follow?

If you answered yes to any of these, your organization my be suffering from a systemic dysfunction where trust is replaced with process. To make matters worse, many consultants who work with large organizations only recommend process changes with little context of your leadership or culture.

How Consultants Work with Corporations

For lasting change you are going to need help with culture and leadership as well. Those take much longer to change and influence compared to following a new process checklist.

Another challenge with process is that your organization has added process on top of process over the years as it has grown into a corporation.

Process Layers in Years

As processes get more complicated and require more sign offs, your cycle time is negatively impacted.

Process Layers & Cycle Times

Worse yet, the average manager life span at an organization is about 3.5 years, so the folks that created the processes in the beginning aren’t even around anymore. No one owns the process or even understands why it was created in the first place.

Processes No Longer Have Owners

There is hope, but it requires an awareness and restraint when dealing with process changes inside your corporation.

Tip #1 – Don’t be quick too create new processes when things go awry.

People are going to make mistakes, but as a manager it is how you respond to those mistakes that will leave a lasting mark on your team. I highly recommend using 5 Why’s to find the root cause of the incident and then making a proportional investment to prevent future occurrences.

Tip #2 – When pushing decisions down, push information down as well

So many times I witness managers attempting to empower their teams and then promptly stripping that empowerment away when they make poor decisions. It isn’t realistic to expect teams to make mission critical decisions without the proper information. Instead of pointing the finger of blame at your team, trying using decision filters or experiment guidelines so the teams have more guidance and relevant information.

Tip #3 – Don’t roll out untested, big bang process changes
I work with teams that are up against several years of process bloat. Instead of doing another big design up front process to replace the already bloated process, I’ve been taking a Lean Startup / Scientific Method approach to process improvement.

a) Who are the users, decision makers, influencers for the process?
b) What is the value proposition of the process for each role?
c) What outcome metrics should be measured?
d) What Minimum Viable Experiment could we run to see if the process can be improved?

Many of the processes you encounter are complex in nature, which means you cannot predict what will happen when you begin to change them. Using Minimum Viable Experiments you can sense and respond your way through the process change, instead of designing the next big process which may make things worse.


3 Keys for Innovation: Why Lean Startup Isn’t Enough

Innovators have a new dilemma. While it is cheaper than ever to achieve problem/solution fit, the rate of change makes it expensive and difficult to maintain product/market fit.

Companies need to do more than just apply Lean Startup concepts, they need a holistic focus on three key areas:

1. Lean Startup
2. Business Model Innovation
3. Continuous Delivery

lean startup business model innovation continuous delivery

The Dangers of a Myopic Approach

Though leveraging all three at once may seem overwhelming, those who do so can thrive in extreme uncertainty. To see why, let’s start by breaking down the dangers of only focusing on one of these key ingredients. [Read more...]


Rise of the Lean Executive

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.” – Peter Drucker

Drucker has passed on, but fortunately for us his ideas have not.

Corporate executives are turning to books like The Lean Startup for ideas on how to keep their organizations relevant. (I know because I see the growing demand for it in our work)

Lean Executive

They are frustrated and under an enormous amount of pressure. Not only do executives have to worry about other large and mid-sized companies, but now even startups, seemingly come out of nowhere to take away market share.

Executives are discovering it isn’t enough to encourage practices such as building Minimum Viable Products to create meaningful change in their organizations.

Smart executives realize that to win the game, their organizations need to discover, learn, and act quicker than the competition.

I call these executives, Lean Executives. [Read more...]


Product Owners: Are You Solving Real Problems?

I’ve seen this look too many times from product owners as of late. As organizations shift from can we build it to should we build it, the future of Scrum hangs in the balance. Scrum, as it is practiced today, is still too focused on delivery.

Today we task product owners with activities such as:

  • Meticulously prioritizing a backlog based on assumed business value
  • Answering questions at a moment’s notice from the team throughout the day
  • Decomposing monolithic efforts into small, user centric batches.

… and yet none if this matters unless you are solving a real problem!

Fortunately for us, product owners are in a great position to help us take our next evolutionary step from can we build to should we build. To do so however, they’ll need to leverage other iterative and lightweight visual thinking tools. [Read more...]


BigVisible Webinar: Lean Startup in the Enterprise

The principles put forth in Eric Ries’ Lean Startup aren’t just for startups. Lean startup practices can and do work in the enterprise too. In this recorded webinar, Lean Startup in the Enterprise, agile coach David J. Bland discusses what lean startup in the enterprise is, how it works, and how agile principles and practices can help you quickly test and validate your hypotheses and gather customer feedback.

In the pre-recorded Lean Startup in the Enterprise webinar, you will learn:

  • The basics of lean startup in the enterprise
  • How to test a hypothesis without harming your brand
  • Why fast customer feedback is crucial for success

Upcoming Lean Startup-Focused Webinars from BigVisible

Join us on September 28, 2012, at 10:00 Pacific, 1:00 Eastern as David hosts a follow-up webinar on another lean startup topic: Unlocking the Business Model Canvas.

Questions from Lean Startup in the Enterprise Webinar

After viewing the webinar, you might want to check out these questions from attendees, along with David’s answers: [Read more...]


Teams Need Business Models, Not Business Plans

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but when I do, it’s a 100+ page business plan attached to a 5-year spreadsheet with numbers that all go up and to the right.

As a result, the business plan has unfortunately become the main character in success theater. It’s rarely read and understood by executives, but perhaps even more tragic is that it doesn’t even satisfy the needs for teams actually trying to execute to the plan.

the dreaded business plan document
[Read more...]


The Enterprise Build-Measure-Learn Network

Build -> Measure -> Learn loops are often broken in large organizations, mostly due to the fact that functional silos do not enable validated learning.

These functional silos, coupled with large batch builds, often result in measurements being conducted on an ad hoc basis in isolation without context.

Broken loops make validated learning difficult

Networks Enable Validated Learning

If you do decide to hone in on actionable metrics, create a network that connects those who are measuring the outcomes of all of your hard work.

Validated learning requires a network

Validated Learning Should Feed the Product Backlog

Once the network is created, take these collective learnings back to the product owner. Unless you feed these back into the backlog all of your data crunching will go ignored on a wiki somewhere.

Validated learning is only possible when collective learnings become part of the product backlog

Once the Build -> Measure -> Learn network is created in your organization, you will not only will feed validated learning back into your backlog, but you will also help break down those functional silos to deliver value.


Looking for a little more lean in your life? You are in luck, David Bland is hosting a free webinar on Lean Startup principles, August 24th, 11 A.M PST/ 2 P.M EST.

Let’s get Lean! Sign me Up!