5 lessons from our Hangout with Steve Johnson

“It’s easier to find technology for people you know, than it is to find people for technology you know”

On Thursday 22nd January we hosted Steve Johnson of Under 10 consulting for a hangout, focused on his talk BoS talk ‘Have we Leaned Too Far?’. If you didn’t join us for the chance to chat with him live, you missed out. Never fear however, we’ve summarised some of the main points into five snippets for you.

Here are five key points from his talk:

1. Lean has it’s positives, but how people apply it often has its flaws:

– There is a lot of good in lean startup as a concept– however Steve sees a trend to start with product and then discover people for it. Really, it’s easier to find technology for people you know, than it is to find people for technology you know.

2. The solution to resolving the issues of lean are putting customers at the centre of product development:

– Customer discovery as a term speaks volume for itself – the way one has to search for customers after creating the product rather than understand the customer need for it logically is not the best way to go about things.
– Start with personas, understand their problems – that’s the product you build.

3. There is also a concern about a short-term view of start-ups, meaning those only thinking in the short term can lose out:

– Steve spoke about his challenge to look beyond the hardware and the software to create a business instead of just a product
– In many ways, Silicon Valley is about ignoring history, they are currently ripping up the rule book and get a developer and a ‘frat boy’ for sales but then find out a couple of years down the line that their underpinning strategy and vision is lacking.
– Product management is about articulating executive strategy, rather than coming up with their own
– A successful as an organisation where a team work together for a common goal
– ‘The raft’ – The people at the back of a white water raft steer the boat, which represents the strategy and people pushing strategy forwards. Those at the front of the boat paddle, but if they do not have the people at the back, they will still hit the rocks.

4. There is therefore a key lesson start-ups should know:

-The good thing today is that we look to learn as soon as possible in contrast to the old days of waterfall. A lot of technology products are a long way into development before they start asking for feedback and this isn’t a healthy position to be in.

5. In conclusion, have we ‘leaned too far?’:

– Steve’s concern with lean start-up is that it seems to have thrown out the good with the bad – we don’t need product managers, we just need customer discoverers instead. Another way of saying ‘have we leaned too far?’ is ‘has agile broken product management?’
– In many cases agile has broken project management – because we are much more focused on the short term. Leaned away from structured planning. I hear people say we don’t need a long term plan. For companies who only look two weeks in advance, then yeah, we’ve leaned too far. Any company who embraces the idea that these are hypothesis that need to be tested.
– We’ve leaned away from the market and focused on technology. In that regard we’ve leaned too far.

If you missed it, check out the full video of the talk below. As a reminder, on 17th February at 6pm GMT we are delighted to be hosting Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder of Moz and Inbound.org, for a hangout on his talk ‘Helping Customers Find You Online’. This will be an opportunity to ask your questions live to a man who is incredibly highly revered in the SEO industry and online space. This is an extremlely exciting opportunity and we look forward to the event. If you would like to get your questions put to the top of the pile for Rand, use #BoS2015 before the event. Register for the hangout here, and don’t forget to join us on the day.

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