Lean Startup Social

It was a great job! I worked fully remote in IT for Kellogg’s as Global Lead for Digital Collaboration. My instructions: “go make Yammer successful”. That was it. I wasn’t even given a working laptop (I had to use my own.) And there was not a lot of support (the company was definitely not set up for remote working).

But I was confident I had the answers people would want to hear. After running social learning and collaboration pilots and projects for many years, I thought I had all the use cases I needed. So I jumped in, set up a few calls, and told people how Yammer would change their work lives.

I went too fast. I thought I had all the answers. I was wrong. I didn’t listen first.

It was time to go back to the drawing board.

In a previous job I developed an intrapreneurship program. It was based on lean startup principles. This seemed a good fit for what I wanted to do, so I decided to use lean startup to test ideas for an internal consultancy service.

I pulled out a Lean Canvas (you could also use the Business Model Canvas) and got to work. This was real business analysis in action. I had a product in Yammer that I thought people would want, but needed to test where it would be best applied in the context of their work. I needed to work out how and where I could “sell” it and my support services into different parts of the organization. I had to find partners to help expand my reach globally. And I needed to establish how to measure my success.

Lean startup methodology requires you to actually talk to people to test your ideas, to ask people about their “jobs to be done”. It’s very different to usual internal workplace deployments (of tech, learning programs, comms/HR content pushes). You cannot assume you know what people need. Probe-sense-respond; it’s Cynefin in action. Adaptable, agile, iterative. I believe it’s the only way to develop successful corporate projects.

I ended up having close to 2,000 conversations. You can read more here.

Lean Canvas image is from https://blog.leanstack.com/why-lean-canvas-vs-business-model-canvas-af62c0f250f0

The 10% Rule: 2,000 Conversations to Organizational Mastery

10,000 hours. That’s the time taken to master a subject. It’s far more complicated than that of course.

It got me thinking. At Kellogg Co (Kellogg’s), I talked to over 2000 employees during my time launching Yammer. I talked to c-suite executives and the newest intern. I talked to field sales managers in New Zealand, commuications advisors in South Africa, marketing leaders in Turkey and Egypt, and US truck drivers in supply chain.

As a remote employee (a test case in itself), the experience for everyone was the same: from global HQ to Japan IT. And you know what? I never did any more than start with a simple question:

Tell me about your job

I talked with many of the people again and was able to find ways to improve their collaboration and learning experiences. But I didn’t jump to solutions at first. It was about connection and understanding.

So I propose a new rule: the 10% rule. You need to talk to at least 10% of employees at an organization before you can help. Kellogg Co had close to 20,000 employees globally. Yes, this isn’t scientific! But maybe you become a master of understanding your organization in the process.

Have you spoken to 10% of your employees so far?

I will write more posts about how I worked at Kellogg Co and other companies over the next month. Want to get started sooner? Contact us for a conversation.