Minimum Viable Book

Stories from people who make things happen: inventors, creators, builders, learners, strivers, doers & dive-right-in-ers

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10 reasons your people are just like so over your scaling

05/08/2015

We recently sent out a survey about scaling organisations and 83 of you responded. Thanks very much to all those who took part! This is a great response and it made us realise we really hit a nerve in our community with this question. If you missed out the first time, you still can still contribute to our results over here.

We asked:

Have you ever left an organisation because of the changes that have come with scaling?

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  • 54% of people we asked answered yes.
  • 61.4% of people also said their preferred organisational size is different from the organisation they currently work in.

From this result, we have concluded that half of your employees may leave if your company scales. For example, if you have a company of 100 people that you want to grow to 200 people, you may need to hire ~150 people to get there. Perhaps you could invest that extra energy, time and money into building and supporting your company culture?

This week at Agile Manchester, Minimum Viable Book co-author Emily gave a buzzfeed-style lightening talk with 10 of the most commonly held responses to our survey.

We’ll be publishing the context and the full results of our survey in a new edition of the Minimum Viable Book soon, but in the mean time, here are 10 reasons why your people are like so over your scaling. I hope you enjoy them – and the painstakingly chosen gifs :).

1. They focused on managing spreadsheets rather than meaningful work

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People dislike the overhead of meetings and bureaucracy, and these are common features of larger organisations. Most people hate spreadsheets. They just want to do meaningful work rather than waste time reporting on their work.

2. The organisation became more ‘corporate’ as it grew which didn’t suit me

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People like the family feeling, knowing everyone and the ease of collaboration that comes with smaller organisations.

3. Lack of managerial experience leading to a lack of support

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Fast-growing organisations were thought to have less support for their staff as management were also learning how to deal with the growth themselves. On the flip side, larger companies can offer better benefits to their people as they have more resources available.

4. Mediocre people were hired. It became a game of paying the bills, not taking risks


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People felt growth sometimes led to rapid hiring and were frustrated that people they didn’t respect were hired. Money was seen as the focus instead of making interesting things. The flip side in the client services sector is that smaller organisations don’t have the clout to attract the bigger clients, which can lead to fewer options for personal career development.

5. People feeling like they are working against each other rather than with each other. Silos.

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Smaller organisations generally have flatter structures and less hierarchy, which was seen as a bonus. Smaller, however, can also mean over-worked people.

6. Being pulled in two directions by two (back-stabbing) bosses

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Smaller organisations were thought to have less politics. Although it was also suggested that a small conflict in a small company could affect the whole team more dramatically.

7. Big companies = generally more bureaucracy, sign-off points and politics which can make it harder to do something

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HR functions were cited a few times as an indicator of bureaucracy and the inability to ‘just get things done’. HR did not get good press in the answers in general (sorry HR people).

8. Loss of focus and control

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Smaller organisations were said to have a clearer shared vision. Larger companies find it harder to keep everyone aligned.

9. The loss of original culture, and a new obsession on the bottom line

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Our survey tells us culture was a big factor as companies grew. People felt the culture changed in large-scaling companies and was not what they originally signed up for, while the focus shifted from people to money. In much smaller organisations however, our respondents felt they were likely to meet less people, so they had a higher probability of not liking the people they work with.

10. The company became less focused, more chaotic and lazy

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If there isn’t good leadership and alignment, it appeared to be easier to hide. People said they get lazy and get away with it.

What we learned from the Alpha release

04/07/2015

As we are OH so close to publishing our beta version of the Minimum Viable Book, we thought it would be a good time to share some of the feedback and lessons learned from our alpha release last year.

The Alpha test group

The Minimum Viable Book alpha experiment was released by invitation-only to roughly 100 people in 2014. These folks had been very engaged with us over the previous year, either by attending workshops, interviews or interacting with us on email and twitter.

We asked these awesome people to read 10 article-length pieces of content online, each with a slightly different format, tone and topic and leave us a rating along with comments.

A few gems from our feedback bank

We noticed that the more thought-provoking, passionate or personal the article content was, the more positively a reader ranked the article:

“People really connect with people and stories about people, so this is a fab way of doing it.”

“I enjoy reading about entrepreneurs and what drives them.”

Most of our alpha articles were quite short and snappy, so they often lacked in-depth examples of how the person applied the concept we described to their work.

“Examples/case studies of how others do/manage process-improvements are really useful.”

“I would’ve found it useful to have concrete examples”

One of the content formats we tested was a simple, but neatly laid-out interview transcript. The idea behind this was to let readers take what they wanted from the interview, rather than us analysing it for them.

“I don’t think the quotes read well. There are just purely transcribed. I think you need to rewrite them to actually make more sense. It’s more important to get the sentiment that was being put across rather than the exact words used.”

“I was confused at the beginning what this was even about, if I wasn’t trying to help, I probably wouldn’t have kept reading. It took me a while to figure out how this might be relevant to me, even after I read the article.”

“I’m confused. I don’t understand how the individual content nuggets, fragments and formats are meant to be read together (if at all) and what binds them together.”

The video format went down well, with almost all participants leaving quite a lot of positive feedback for this format.

“Video > Writing”

“Love the videos”

“I liked the brevity. Saying useful things quickly. The idea being that you can then go and act on the advice.”

“Nice soundbites on the topic; good insights from people who have done it.”

Finally, we also found a couple of comments about a few grammatical mistakes, so we’ve decided to work with a proper grown-up sub-editor on the beta!

The beta

We are close to the release of a beta version of the Minimum Viable Book, and this will be available to buy in a printed newspaper format very soon. We’ve learned from our Alpha feedback, and decided to include many more in-depth examples, analysis and visuals around a central theme that ties the narrative altogether. We’ll be releasing another video too, although not in the newspaper, obvs ;).

In this first newspaper issue, we’ll be featuring stories that explore the positive force of 3D printing on hardware innovation and traditional industries; plus, the links between iteration and diminishing improvement of technology in large organisations. And so much more.

Join us!

If you’d like to contribute in any way, we’d like to hear from you. Drop us line.

The people of the Minimum Viable Book

11/26/2014

We have never, ever had a bad interview for the Minimum Viable Book. No really.

I leave every interview with a little buzz on, saying “one more thing!” and “I can’t believe our time is already up!” Writing these ‘making of’ posts – and writing our actual book – has really made me pause and wonder why that is.

If I had to guess, I’d say the awesome, head-expanding vibe is something to do with the people who dare to reply to our interview requests.

People preoccupied with doing the thing

The folks we’ve been contacting often know very little about the principles of agile and lean, but they are very experienced in doing the thing they do. We look for makers and doers of all kinds of cool and kooky things around the world. These people are normally so preoccupied with getting their UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) off the ground, or running a laser cutting studio, or helping kids learn after school, that they’ve hardly had time to reflect on the way they do things.

And why would they? They are part of a movement of people who ignore the dogma, start small, take tiny calculated risks, iterate as fast as possible and are/will be the ones responsible for a new wave of innovation in their industry. The way they do things changes all the time.

Curious and generous people

They are the people who responded to an email, from strangers, out of the blue, asking if they could find some time for an interview about ‘making things happen’. They were curious and generous enough to give up their time for a chat about something random and abstract. They took a leap into the unknown.

We’re currently writing about the slow, risk-averse innovation cycles in consumer aviation verses UAVs after speaking with Mathieu Johnsson, an aerospace engineer from Bristol UK. We’re also writing about the emphasis of teaching kids to put effort in, rather than teaching kids to ‘get it right’ after speaking to Catriona Mclay from the Hackney Pirates.

Our minds continue to expand after every conversation, and we can’t wait to introduce you to these folks in our newspaper beta release in February 2015.

How our research has evolved

11/09/2014

We have been researching the minimum viable book for a year now and in that time our approach has changed and evolved. We have changed too. Our research has fuelled our learning and being flexible has allowed us to explore avenues that we didn’t expect.

When we started on this journey we raised a fear about research, the fear was:

“It’s not researched enough / there’s not enough data”

And our mitigation was:

“We will conduct multiple workshops and surveys per chapter”

So we set about planning workshops in a number of locations: London, Bristol, Berlin and Austin Texas. We brainstormed some starter topics and asked our readers what they wanted to know most about. While we were away, we planned interviews with interesting people in the spare time around the workshops so we could dig a little deeper into our topics.

What we found was that while the workshops were a great way to meet people and set us going, the bit that has really got us excited were the interviews.

We threw our net quite wide. The criteria for people we wanted to talk to was simple: people who make things or get things done. This led us to meet hackers, coders, makers, curators, inventors, educators, business owners as well as agile and lean practitioners. We found that some of the most interesting conversations happened in the most unexpected places.

Our interview style has always been fairly laid back and this hasn’t changed, we find a quiet spot and let the conversation flow. Initially we used the interview chapters as a starting point, but now we usually kick-off by asking people for their back stories, then gently guide the conversation towards some of the common themes we have found throughout our journey.

We see the value in remaining flexible and allowing for emerging ideas and topics – it’s really helped us along the way. Even as we approach our Beta deadline in a few months, we aren’t expecting our approach to stay the same. And we’ll welcome all those changes.
As Eve from Make ATX said in one of our interviews:

“Accept what you are doing might not always turn out the way you want it to, but who knows, it might turn into something better.”

Emily & Amy

Photo by: marcwathieu

Making-of stories on the horizon

10/30/2014

Hello Minimum Viable Book followers, it’s me Amy, checking in to tell you what we’ve been up to over the past few months.

While we’ve had our heads tucked into all kinds of weird and wonderful interviews, we realise we’ve left you all patiently waiting in the dark, sorry about that. To make it up to you, we’ll be writing a series of blog posts to bring you up to speed with the making of the Minimum Viable Book.

Here are some of the ‘making-of’ stories we’ll be covering in the coming weeks:

The alpha release
We had an overwhelming response and some really useful feedback on the alpha content. We’ll share some stats and some decisions.

Interviews interviews interviews
When we set-off down the path of running 4 workshops in 4 locations around the world, we weren’t expecting the random wacky interviews we squeezed in around the edges that really delivered the gold. We evolved our questions as we went, so we’ll tell you all about that.

Minimum Viable Book Tuesdays, Trello and Google Drive
We fit our Minimum Viable Book activities around full time jobs, weddings, start-ups and life so we need to be extremely organised and aligned on our approach to Minimum Viable Book content and interview scheduling!

Re-setting our target to February, visiting Bristol and Australia
Because content! Over the next few months, we’ll be targeting a few key interviews and wrapping up our content for a beta release (which will be available in a printed newspaper format). We’ll also be visiting our friends in Bristol to surface some of the stories that came up during our workshop last year. Amy will also be heading to Australia to chat to a few cool people who reached out over the interwebs.

Stay tuned MVBers.

Amy and Emily

5 bites of advice for making things

07/30/2014

Horray, it’s alpha day! Today we launched a private alpha version of the Minimum Viable Book to around 100 people. We’re testing 10 content items in a few different formats to see what our readers like the most.

If you missed out on an alpha invite, don’t dismay. We plan to open up a few more spots on our alpha soon, so get in touch.

We are also already planning a beta version that will be publicly available in both digital and paper formats with some help from our friends at the Newspaper Club.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this video ‘5 bites of advice for making things’ featuring the thoughts of:

  • Mike Langford, Producer-Presenter of Locapour.tv, a show that celebrates locally brewed beer.
  • Veronica Roberts, Curator for The Blanton Museum of Art, one of the foremost university art museums in the United States.
  • James Adam, Founder of digital product development company, Exciting.io.
  • Jo Lammert, Studio Producer and Founder of Games Development company, White Whale Games.
  • Scott Bellaware, Freelance Agile Coach.

We’re always looking for awesome people to interview. If you’re someone who makes stuff, any kind of stuff, we’d love to talk to you.

More soon!

Emily & Amy

Introducing the Minimum Viable Book Alpha

07/01/2014

Thank you all very much for your ongoing support and interest in the Minimum Viable Book.

Over the past ten months, we have travelled to a few spots in the UK, Germany and the United States. We’ve met some truly generous folks who were willing to share their stories about making things happen. We’ve been on a mission to remove the buzz words, copyrighted processes and rigid methodologies (Oh yes, even agile and lean has these), and simply talk about what works and what doesn’t through tangible examples.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to contact everyone who signed up, but that doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. We hope this project carries on and on for quite some time yet.

We’d like to thank everyone who took part in one of our four workshops around the world, and also those who shared their stories in one-on-one interviews. Our minds have really expanded in the past year.

We’ve been juggling our Minimum Viable Book discovery and research activities with our full time jobs, so we haven’t been able to go as fast as we would have liked. We all have to pay the bills right?

BUT finally, we have some news: we’re almost ready to release our Alpha. Hoorah!

We’re putting the finishing touches on it, but here’s what we can tell you now:

  1. It’s not a book! We want to test a non-linear, topic-based collection of stories (initially in simple html)
  2. We are trialling ten content items and formats
  3. Each content piece has a slightly different style and structure and uses media in a different way
  4. The content will initially be available to read by invitation-only
  5. We’ll be analysing the statistics and sending surveys to help gather some feedback
  6. Once we have your feedback, we’ll plan a next iteration. Exciting!
  7. Our release date is currently planned for Wednesday the 30th of July

There’s still time to register your interest in taking part. Who knows, you might be selected for our Alpha.

We’ll check in with you all soon. Ciao for now.

Emily & Amy

Featured image by Azrasta

Austin Adventures

11/14/2013

Our Austin Texas adventure started when we waved goodbye to a rainy London on Saturday morning, only to be greeted the craziest thunderstorms and flooding on Saturday evening and a fantastic temporary home in Hyde Park.

Austin was all about the food and the people.

Over the course of a very fast week, we indulged in some amazing food including: PoutineBiscuits and Gravy (we were randomly filmed by The Food Network’s Eat Street while we were eating this!) and a LOT of tacos.

The people in Austin were amazing – so willing to give up their time to share their stories. We talked to a fascinating range of folks with very different experiences and insights. We were lucky enough to collect stories of fun, failure, and JUST GET STARTED from hardware makers to art curators to game designers to laser cutters to agile practitioners… and more!

Thanks so much to our willing interviewees:

John Kestner from Supermechanical, Brooke Davis of Makeshift, Scott Bellware from Lean Software Austin, Jo Lammert from White Whale Games, Marshall Vaughan and Martin Bogomolni from Hackerspace, Veronica Roberts from the Blanton, Matt Roberts from Agile Austin, James Adam from Exciting, Kristen & Eve from Make, Mike Langford from Local PourSilona Bonewald, Kami Wilt from Austin Tinkering School and Janelle Klein from New Iron.

Your generous stories expanded our minds and of course, our book :).

As usual, we also hosted a workshop with a small group of Austinites to dive into our Minimum Viable Book topics as voted by you. More on that coming very soon.

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Guten tag people who make things happen in Berlin, Germany

09/17/2013

Guten tag people who make things happen in Berlin, Germany. We want YOU!

We’re looking for volunteers from a broad spectrum of people to contribute to the Minimum Viable Book via interview or by contributing to our workshop at the People in Beta Festival. Whether you make websites, tables, craft beer, policies, software, household appliances, art or ice cream – we’d like to chat to you about your process.

Join our workshop

When: Saturday, 28th September 2013
Where: People in Beta Festival, Betahaus Berlin, Prinzessinnenstraße 19-20, 10969
Ticket cost: €10 (this fee is going to the festival organisers to cover their costs)
Links: Book on EventBrite, Facebook event.
More: you’ll be getting involved in some hands-on exercises aimed to help participants share stories about their experience with Agile, Lean and generally getting things done. Everyone who attends will not only be given the opportunity to discuss their process of experimenting and course-correcting, you’ll get a proper citation in the Minimum Viable Book.

Take part in our interviews

We have a very limited number of interview slots available on Saturday & Sunday afternoon. If you’re interested in chatting to us, please do drop us a line to to say hi.

Yay!

Image by Jörg Kantel

Calling all those who make things happen in Austin, Texas

08/23/2013

Calling all those who make things happen in Austin, Texas. We want YOU.

Hmmm that’s quite a broad call-out, isn’t it? Well yes, we want to talk to broad spectrum of people. Whether you make websites, tables, craft beer, software, household appliances, art or ice cream – we’d like to chat to you about your process.

What do I have to do?

Tell us your stories while we’re in Austin during October 14-18, 2013.

We’re looking for interesting people who would like to contribute to our book about Agile, Lean and making things happen, either via a face to face interview, or by applying to participate in our workshop at MakerSquare on the evening of Tuesday October 15. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert on Agile and Lean or even know what it is. Drop us a note over here if you’re interested in either activity.

In exchange, we’ll provide the coffee, beer and we’ll also properly cite you in the published book and on our website. You may even be selected to participate in our short-form documentary on the subject.

More about our project

We’ve embarked on a wild adventure to write a book about Agile and Lean, and we’re eating our own dog food by writing it in an Agile and Lean way. For us, that means entering into a discovery phase that surfaces stories and experiences around a set of topics that our (very!) broad target audience has told us they’re interested in reading about.

While the concepts of Agile and Lean are not so new to the tech and digital community, people in other industries are only just starting to catch on. We want to make this topic more accessible so we are paying special attention to the wonderful stories of people using an iterative, course-correcting approach in all kinds of skills and areas.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch!

Image by Ian Broyles.

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