My learnings from Lean Day London ’14

Two weeks ago, I attended the London edition of Lean Day, a 2-day event dedicated to “changing the way products are built”. Put together by Jeff Gothelf and his colleagues at Neo, it was first time this event was being held in London. The main theme of Lean Day was around improving the way in which we create or iterate products.

As always with inspiring events, you come home with your head buzzing with new ideas and thoughts. I took some time to reflect and forced myself to narrow things down to a maximum of 5 things that I’d like to implement in my day-job in some form over the next 1-3 months:

  1. Focus on ‘jobs’ and determine where a product starts and stops – The talk at Lean Day which stood out for me was the one by Des Traynor, Co-Founder of successful Irish startup Intercom. It was interesting to hear Des talk about the “irony of product management”: “because you’re trying to make everything better, you make everything worse.” He therefore urged us to focus on a limited set of jobs instead (see Fig. 1 below). This approach really helps to narrow down the product scope and the specific user problem that you’re trying to solve. In a similar vein, Des also talked about the importance of determining where a product starts and stops (see Fig. 2 below).
  2. Estimating impact – In his talk at Lean Day, Agile coach Gus Power talked about impact estimation. Taking the work of Gojko Adzic on Impact Mapping as a starting point, Gus talked about measuring the impact of different design ideas on the desired – business or user – outcome. Impact mapping and estimation can really help in thinking through the potential value of a certain idea or feature as well as the underlying assumptions. Similar to Des Traynor, Gus emphasised that it’s not about the rate at which you build new features, but much more about their impact and their subsequent iterations.
  3. “Weighted Shortest Job First” –  It was interesting to hear Robin Pembrooke, Head of Product at BBC News Online, talk about the “Weighted Shortest Job First” (‘WSJF’) as a way to prioritise software development. Robin spoke about inheriting complex legacy products, for which it’s quite useful to use the WSJF method to prioritise. WSJF was first introduced by Donald Reinertsen in his book “The Principles of Product Development Flow” (2009) and is a useful way to first prioritise those features that take a relatively little amount of time but which do contribute to user/business value and to ‘time criticality’ (cost of delay).
  4. Customer exposure hours  Leisa Reichelt, who’s Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service (‘GDS’), spoke about how they do ‘customer exposure hours’ at the GDS. About every 6 weeks, they’ll dedicate 2 hours to meeting with GDS customers, watching real users interact with their site or with new designs. Lisa made a good point in her talk about the collaborative nature of user research; stressing that “user research is a team sport.” For example, with the regular customer exposure hours at the GDS, the whole digital team tends to get involved (including senior stakeholders).

Main learning point: Going back over my notes from the 2-day “Lean Day London” conference, the two words that best capture the majority of talks are “collaboration” and “iteration”. I loved the fact that most speakers were passionate about learning and doing product experiments. However, the speakers made it clear that even for such an iterative or “lean” approach, an understanding of your (target) users and success factors are important prerequisites. Over the next 1-3 months I’m therefore looking to focus more on user understanding and how to best determine what success looks like, both from a users and a business point of view. All in all, I felt that Lean Day London is one of the best conference that I’ve been to for quite a while!

Related links for further learning:


Fig. 1 – Think about “jobs” when developing a product (based on my notes from a talk by Des Traynor at Lean Day London 2014, examples are my own)

The Job = The Problem + The Situational Context + Success Criteria

The Problem:

“What outcome are your users trying to achieve?”

I’m struggling to find new music content

I find it hard to keep up to date with what’s happening within my favourite music genre 

I don’t know what to listen to anymore or which concerts to go to

The Situational Context:

This problem typically occurs when I’m at work, wanting to ‘get into the zone’ and am looking for new music to listen to

I don’t want to spend hours creating a new playlist

When my friends ask me to come to a show with them and I’m not familiar with the artist they’re talking about

Success Criteria:

What matters to the actual users?

It needs to be fast

Easy to use

Easy to customise

Fig. 2 – Determining where a product starts and stops (based on my notes from a talk by Des Traynor at Lean Day London 2014)

Start at the first step in the workflow where you can add unique value, and work out how to make the transition from the previous step seamlessly.

Stop when:

There’s a well defined market leader (and you don’t want to compete).

The job(s) is completed in various different ways.

Hardly anyone is using your product or feature.

It’s something you van’t delivery any value on.

Fig. 3 – Weighted Shortest Job First  (taken from:






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