Transitioning teams to lean

The Microsoft and Yammer story. (Microsoft acquired Yammer)

The old way of doing things worked: Microsoft earnt billion of dollars and was the leader for 30 years. But we realised we wanted to evolve. Challenge is what we do is working, so what is the case for change?

When Yammer was bought by Microsoft we were told that things would stay agile. But what we got was “mini waterfalls”. That was what you get with top-down management.

These days Microsoft is fairly decentralised. Everyone needs to be in on lean though to make it work. We organised lean days and found that we had an early evangelists – so people were interested.

When we said MVP people thought we were talking about creating “junk”. We couldn’t use that language and found we had to talk in a new way, one that they understood. Key term was “building bridges” between customers and companies. We talked about hypotheses in terms of “vision” and that started working. MVP became hypotheses driven development.

In order to effect change you need people who have credibility that are articulating what we are doing.

Some of the things that have worked:
- changing language
- tag teaming (sharing information – strengths in Yammer, working with those in Microsoft)
- we asked for recommendations of people to help evangelise.

We got people to think about everything as experiments even if they were mid-cycle. This scientific method of lean made sense at Microsoft so that’s how we talked about things. Microsoft is used to collecting data, just not the right data. So we have worked on everyone talking about hypotheses.

We’ve taken teams that are interested in working this way and treating them like first customers. It’s time sensitive and not scalable (but teaching us how we could scale in the future). Our strategy to expand lean in Microsoft: We’re looking for success stories that proves this is the good way to do things.

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