Unfolding plans 151 – Employee engagement and culture

This week is flying by.  It’s day four of National customer Service Week already.  I’m still wearing my Institute of Customer Service badge (with pride) even though I’ve changed jackets since yesterday.  Today’s theme is employee engagement and culture which is perfect as we’re having our second day of our Lean Start-Up training.  The group was back at the Civic Hall in Stanley but this time we were upstairs rather than in the dance studio.  It was a better location.

So what has Lean Start-Up got to do with customers? At this point you may be thinking that it was a cheap shot at rebranding something we were going to do anyway so that it fitted in with the week.  OK, I admit there was an element of that yet it fits very nicely.

Lean Start-Up is about getting products and services to market that people actually want as quickly as possible.  It is about testing your assumptions and risks long before you get into production. What could be more customer focussed than engaging with them to understand what they need and delivering products that meet that need? I said it was a perfect fit.

Justin started off the day by revisiting the processes and techniques used in Lean Start-Up.  He had some slides and a few videos that he went through.  After this we split up into three groups to challenge some products using a validation board.  Each of us had to consider who the customer group was that we were aiming at as well as the problem our product was going to solve.  We wrote all the assumptions we made onto sticky notes and chose the one that was the most risky.  This was the one thing that we needed to test and so we defined a mechanism that we would use.

Team kitchen looked at the Durham Learning Gateway, while Team La Boheme concentrated on combining a couple of existing services to save money.  Team Chopin (the team I was in) had a go at New Ways of Working.  I know it seems a bit pretentious but we based the team names upon what was on the wall closest to where the group was standing.  I’ll not go into any specifics as we covered some sensitive information, especially some of our assumptions.

The process worked well.  Thinking about what our customers might want is not the same as knowing.  The best way to find out is to ask them.  The alternative way, of launching a product only to find then if there is a market, is much more risky approach.  The real insight for me is that it flushes out all our assumptions that underpin the viability of the offer.  We assume that there are customers.  We assume that they have a need.  We assume that we can fulfil that need and above all we assume that they will pay us for the pleasure.

The beauty of the Lean Start-up process is that it forces us to reconsider what we believe to be true and test it against what our customers, potential or not, believe to be true.  As Saul Kaplan said we need to take our ideas off the whiteboard and into the real world.

Thanks Justin.

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