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I’ve seen Eric Ries speak before; Scott Cook brought him into Intuit to go over his Lean Startup message (http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2010/05/lean-startup-intensive-is-tomorrow-at.html) that he’s been pushing around. It’s really good stuff and as someone who’s made all of the mistakes he talks about I highly recommend it.

In the keynote he gave at Web 2.0 Expo yesterday, he added something I don’t remember seeing the first time. He said the goal is to minimize the total time for one “pivot” cycle.

The important thing is the definition of a “pivot”. Paraphrasing and interpreting, a pivot here is a change in direction caused by something you’ve learned about your business, be it your market, product, customer, whatever. And there are three steps in the cycle: build (the product), measure (the result), and learn (the reasons behind the result).

This helps illustrate the problem I’ve experienced in a large company. Minimizing time through this loop requires cross functional thinking and objectives that is ubiquitous in startups but is disappointingly rare in larger corporations where employees tend to be over-specialized.

For instance, at Intuit, there is a lot of focus in the engineering community around faster build and launch cycles. It’s all about continuous deployment, unit testing, server virtualization, etc. All good stuff, but it’s all focused on pure product cycles and not business cycles. Tracking is an afterthought.

For many designers and engineers, there’s a mental milestone (and thus, relief) when the product/version/build launches. The real milestone for the business (and so it should be as well for all employees) is when we’ve learned what we need to learn and made the right business decision on the next step.

We’re getting better. Tracking and data are beginning to play a larger role, and business interests are creeping their way into product conversations (“No!!!”). The key for any org, large or small, in minimizing the time through the loop is focusing all employees on the higher level business objective and Eric’s framework is a great way to have that conversation.

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