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Lean & team dynamics for publishers

Lean learning Looplean loop by dsleeter_2000
Kevin Heery is the Digital Technology Director for IPC Media and author of the Lean Grownup blog. Kevin is speaking at AOP’s flagship Summit event on October 12, which looks at how publishers can use the lean startup approach to deliver even better products, with more efficiency. Here he explains how the lean startup approach can be applied in traditional media businesses.

There are some lean practitioners that will tell you that large enterprises should throw out their traditional processes and embrace lean in all areas of the business. I disagree. The fact is, all big businesses were startups at some point in their lives, and will have naturally run lean until they hit on the products that worked. They then gradually put in more complicated structures and processes as their workforce grew and they pivoted towards scaling a proven business model, rather than innovating to find a new one, exactly as they should have done.  Our traditional media businesses have been enormously effective in scaling traditional revenues and it doesn’t make sense to change something that isn’t broken. BUT, where we are actively trying to innovate around new business models, then we should be practising lean. What isn’t talked about much in Lean Startup conversations is how to promote the right team dynamics. In startups, the entrepreneur, the content person, marketing person, the hotshot engineer, the designer etc, all see themselves as one team with the shared obsession of making the business work. The business will be focused around one product that at this point isn’t proven. Everyone involved is therefore taking a risk just being there in the first place. They have all made a difficult decision to buy fully into a vision and will therefore do whatever is required to make it work, without ever pulling out their job description (which they won’t have anyway) to complain that something they’re being asked to do isn’t their responsibility. The reason savvy startups use lean is to give them the best chance of succeeding - To make sure they are testing, measuring and being honest with themselves about whether they are moving in the right direction or not. It helps temper the blind obsession that ‘this product will change the world’ and ensures they change direction when they should. But it’s that focussed, ‘all in it together’ team dynamic that is also the key factor that gives them the best chance of succeeding. If a traditional media business wants to give a new product the best chance of succeeding then it should put the right people (people who understand and completely believe in the vision for the product) from the right functions, together, and let them focus on this product and nothing else, but ensure they use lean methodologies so they are regularly required to have the ‘persevere or pivot’ conversation. In this environment they will start to behave differently. For instance, if a developer requires a decision to be made through a discussion with the full team, then instead of waiting for the usual weekly or even monthly meeting, they will just shout across the room so they can move on in minutes rather than days.

Read more from Kevin – what lean means for publishers in layman’s terms How to speed up development and get your wasted time back. Find out more about the AOP Summit - prices go up after this Friday.