Notes on Jeff Gothelf’s Scaling Lean: Project, Program, Portfolio

(Posted to Jeff’s slideshare on 3/29/16, link here. His new book Sense and Respond is available for preorder here.)

Lean seems to break at scale–too many silos, hard deadlines, project plans and old relics hiding there!

But Jeff presents several ways to think about scaling:

  • Project—How to incorporate learning into each initiative?
  • Program—How to coordinate multiple efforts focused on the same goal?
  • Portfolio–How to coordinate multiple programs while adhering to governance and stakeholder expectations?

Each presents its own challenges:


So we need to stick to some principles:

  1. Customer value = Business value
    • How?  Tactic: Manage to OKRs (I summarized Christina Wodtke on this, link here)
      • Objectives are qualitative, inspirational, time-bound and actionable independently by the team
      • Key results are quantifiable, metrics proving we met objective, difficult but impossible, cascading and rhythmic
    • Evidence-based quarterly planning
    • Horizon planning (short-, medium- and long-term)
  2. Value learning over delivery
    • You can’t test everything—but you can get creative with what you do!
    • Align to a single metric of progress
    • Build momentum with pilot teams
    • Sandboxes
  3. Radical transparency
    • Transparency through rituals
    • Access to customers
    • Access to data
    • Lean activities across teams
    • Cross-team coordination
  4. Humility in all things
    1. Product discovery
    2. Don’t offshore development
    3. “Orbital model” for support outside of product dev team (i.e. brand, marketing, legal)
    4. Modern staffing models
    5. Modernized tech stack
    6. This is a top-down effort
    7. Seek out the shit umbrella
    8. Show it’s ok to fail
    9. Share what you know


About Jeff, from his blog:

My name is Jeff Gothelf and I’ve worked for many years as a product designer and team leader. These days I’m spending more time as a teacher, workshop leader and public speaker. Recently I published my first book, Lean UX: Applying lean principles to improve user experience (O’Reilly 2013). I’ve led successful, cross-functional, collaborative, agile teams at organizations of all sizes. I mainly focus on building and training evidence-based, customer-centered product development teams. These teams often utilize lean principles and agile software development. 


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