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By working closely and regularly with customers, delivering early, iterating ideas and working cross-functionally towards a common goal Agile software development transformed the business of creating software.
Agile development massively increased the value delivered by the typical software development project by favouring “individuals and interactions” over specification, “working software” over pretty much everything, “customer collaboration” over contract negotiations and “responding to change” over blindly following a plan…
What would happen if we used these “Agile” principles to deliver Growth rather than Software?!?
We could favour “customer collaboration” and “individuals and interactions” by forming a cross functional Growth team including both “customers” and “suppliers”.
We should include representatives from Product, Sales, Marketing, Technology, Operations, Finance and so on…
We could favour “working software” or Growth in our case by giving the team the single unifying purpose of growing a carefully chosen growth metric.
The Growth Team could be “responding to change” rather than a plan by delivering early and taking a measure-act-measure approach to ideas through “on ramp” to “live” stages.
The Growth Team could communicate and meet regularly, maybe a quick “stand up” at the same time and place every day would work really well.
We could work to a weekly or fortnightly rhythm with the cumulative affects of the growth activities on the Growth metric being publicly demonstrated (and hopefully celebrated) at the end of every cycle or “sprint”.
So we have created a cross-functional team meeting regularly with the unified common purpose of doing anything and everything necessary to measure-act-measure the impact of their ideas on a single carefully chosen growth metric.
That’s cool but…
Maybe we could give this sort of approach a name…like Growth Hacking or something?
Yes Growth Hacking is the sort of term that means different things to different people but anyone familiar with Agile software development will be struck by the similarities between the approaches, rituals and rhythms typically used in both Growth Hacking and Agile Software Development.
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Does it all work in the real world?
The same underlying principles that make Agile software development so effective also mean Growth Hacking can totally transform the effectiveness of a company’s growth activities.
I recently spent a day with the talented team at a well backed UK based energy startup called Hometree who are creating a great brand by disrupting the domestic energy market customer experience.
We had a really productive workshop where we honestly examined the Strength Weakness Opportunities and Threats in their current growth landscape, discussed and then selected initial and ultimate growth metrics, collected growth ideas, created a growth board, reconstituted the growth team and set up the new team’s rituals and rhythms.
Not bad for one day and Andreu Tobella Brunet the Co-Founder of Hometree UK commented…
“As a start-up that is using an innovative way to sell online, we created a growth team from scratch but were having a few challenges to structure it well and have clear objectives and team alignment. This is where Rorie stepped in and helped us understand well all the roles, define our single metric and create a high performing growth team. The whole team was extremely pleased with the improvements, I would highly recommend him”.
Whether you call it Growth Hacking or something else, a very effective way of accelerating your growth is to learn from agile software development and to create a cross-functional team meeting regularly with the unified common purpose of doing anything and everything necessary to measure-act-measure the impact of their ideas on a single carefully chosen growth metric.
The news that Coca Cola has closed down its’ Founders startup incubator has led to the usual raft of “I Told You So’s” saying that it’s because corporate startup incubators don’t work – but are they right?
I have been involved with three big companies launching internal startup “Incubators”/”Labs” teams so far…and what have I learnt?
Firstly I think it is done for good reasons.
Startups normally have good people, energy, good ideas, leading edge tech, a low cost approach, a high risk appetite and a willingness to challenge orthodoxies. They just want to get stuff done.
Big companies normally have deep pockets, millions of customers, a great brand and experience of operating at scale.
Surely the best of both worlds would be for big companies to launch startups? What could go wrong?
Well, quite a lot as it happens.
Mistake #1 – Not defining what you want the startup to achieve
In other words what will success look like?
It sounds simple but there is spectrum of “innovation” ranging from far horizon R&D to tactical (incremental) improvements to existing products and services.
What is wanted/needed? Success needs to be defined and solved for.
In general the startup should not be given special treatment…”success” is to create a growing business that attracts and retains customers.
Mistake #2 – Not getting total organisational buy-in and executive sponsorship
Sooner or later the startup will be stopped dead in its tracks by a blocker if the whole of the organisation isn’t behind it – from the top downwards. With the best will in the world active and passive resistance will be met and the startup needs to be able to wheel in very senior people to call bulls*t and unblock things.
Mistake #3 – Integrating the startup so tightly that it effectively becomes another corporate department
The whole point of a startup is to do something different so if you insist it uses existing people, existing corporate assets and the current approaches you will get what you got. You need to achieve a loose coupling whereby the startup has the freedom to chose between doing something new and leveraging corporate infrastructure case-by-case based on what is best for the startup.
Mistake #4 – Getting the wrong people to “be” the startup
If you are going to create a startup you need to do what startups do. This is for a team to self-select great people passionate about what the startup wants to do. If you ask one of the big system integrators/consultants to create a startup within your company you might end up back in the worst-of-both-worlds territory. The people in the startup don’t need to be existing or new employees either necessarily – they just need the talent and drive to deliver the goals. Organisations like gro.team can supply high impact interim talent at short notice into these kind of situations very successfully. Possibly the best loved UK retail brand will soon be launching a new customer service (that is very different to its’ current business) using this approach and the gro.team person in that team is part of a startup that stands comparison (in terms of talent and effectiveness) with any of the many startups I’ve seen.
Mistake #5 – Not integrating the new product/services back into the Mothership
We created a Labs operation when I was CTO of Yell and we did nearly everything right. We hired great people, they developed a great micro-culture, they produced some really innovative products and services (including a really cool augmented reality app way back in 2010) but we never really managed to integrate the new things back into the existing business and deliver customer impact. For that reason it has to marked down as a failure overall.
Corporate startup incubators can be a graveyard for ambition (and there are a lot of traps for the unwary) but it can be done successfully – Telefonica’s launch of giffgaff and British Gas’s Hive are just two examples that come to mind.
As with a lot of things, in this area experience is a great teacher and nothing beats getting people involved who have been there, done it and have the scars to prove it.
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