I Know How to Run Experiments, Now What? (part 1)

The Lean Startup principle of rapid experimentation is spreading through enterprises like wildfire!  At Intuit, we have at least 1,200 employees that have incredible experimentation capabilities.  These folks are not only creating effective experiments, but extremely creative ones as well.  One big problem is that many of these experiments are only occurring inside our two and five-day workshops.

As I follow up with teams long after the sessions, about 30% of the time I find that participants have not been able to identify where they can apply these new rapid experimentation skills in their daily work. I will eventually end up creating a module to help my students identify opportunities, but in the mean time, I thought I should create a quick series of posts to give you some specific situations to look for.

Here are three situations to be on the lookout for:

Our team is debating about which direction to head next
Imagine sitting in a team meeting and had a team member presenting a status update. They provide suggested next steps and then all hell breaks loose. It seems like everyone has an opinion or a dart to throw about where the project should head next.
This is usually a telltale sign that you can apply your new rapid experimentation knowledge. In this situation, you should capture ALL of the directions suggested, quickly prioritize the list and have each team member quickly test one of the suggestions before your next meeting. The entire team can come back to the meeting with real data to share and you can decide on the next direction to head.

We just made a crazy commitment (or got voluntold)
You join your boss for your regular 1-on-1 time and she has some “news” to share with you. He just got back from a staff meeting and is informing you that the team needs to be able to meet a fresh new goal within the next 6 months. You will need to increase a specific business metric (sales, conversions, NPS, etc) by 10%! He has a few ideas as to how you might be able to make this work.

This situation is ripe for the application of rapid experimentation. Your boss has some assumptions about the fact that these ideas will get you to the goal line. Take a few of the ideas and spend a few days quickly testing them. Come back to your boss with specific examples of how each idea may or may not work. Share with him the amounts you feel you can move the metrics with each idea and then FOCUS on 1-2 of the ideas to follow through on.

Our partners / vendors are not moving quickly enough
Unfortunately (or fortunately) in the enterprise, most development work is done through partner teams or external vendors. Because of this, they are usually interacting with you instead of directly connecting with the customer of your product. In addition to this disconnection, they are also trying to focus on delivering for multiple stakeholders.

What if you could make a very small request from your partner and/or vendor? With this request you can provide data showing a positive impact on your end customer and possibly even a rough ROI calculation that’s not pulled from thin air.
In my experience, the partner will be very happy to fit your small request into the front of their development queue. You have something that most of their other stakeholders do not have: proof!

Another great approach for this situation is to bring the partner / vendor along for the ride. Have them join you in the creation and execution of the experiments. Not only will the relationship get stronger, but they might be able to begin to apply the techniques as well. You can move quickly TOGETHER!

I will put together a few more posts with other situations I have spotted throughout my travels. In the meantime, what situations are you seeing as opportunities?