Change, Lean Product Development

Towards a Leaner Enterprise

The beginning

How do you go about changing a system where the focus is command and control and the doing takes place a long way from where the thinking is done? This was the question I asked myself this autumn. Work was becoming increasingly boring each day.

“Every time another execution process is added, corporate innovation dies a little more.” – Marty Cagan (

Many initiatives led to nothing at all, and fear of failure was poisoning the organisation. I had studied the organisation and how the work worked, or rather didn’t, for a couple of months. It was clear that the organisation suffered from several problems:

  1. Long lead times
  2. Poor quality in deliveries
  3. Little flexibility

But looking deeper, there seemed to be other more fundamental problems:

  1. Lack of trust
  2. Fear of failing
  3. A few leaders calling the shots, what to do and how to do it.

This led to:

  • More planning
  • More detailed control
  • More stage gates to make sure that the right thing was done

Stephen Bungay, author of Art of Action, visualises some of problems in such an organisation in the following figure three-gaps

Finding Some Allies

I needed to go outside of the IT-department to find allies. By co-incidence, I found my allies in the team sitting closest to some of the customer facing channels. They were hugely disappointed not only with the extremely long lead times, but also by the lack of quality in the deliveries from the IT-department. So they had started doing things on their own, creating hacks in the content management system. Far from perfect, but there was hope. When talking with the people in this team I discovered that they actually had a Lean mindset. They had worked around some of the major obstacles, they did A/B testing to validate their assumptions and were using measurements to help out in their decision making. We met through several weeks, and together we decided on what we could do to improve the situation.


One thought on “Towards a Leaner Enterprise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s