Updated Outline: Adopting the Lean Startup Methodology

About me

I’m a Partner Manager at Builtfirst where I manage relationships with SaaS partners like HubSpot, Zendesk, Brex & more. I participated in (& organized a meetup for) a startup apprenticeship program, Praxis.

You can find me at a park playing sports, a concert, or wine tasting.

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After excessive deliberation throughout the first couple of weeks, I’m re-writing my outline to better fit the work I’m doing as an Operations Manager at an early-stage startup. In my research, I’ve discovered the lean startup methodology (also known as agile development) for this project. I’ll be adopting these ideas and pivoting my project to better fit the work I’m doing.

But first, what does the “lean startup methodology” even mean? It’s the process of forming a basic strategy and continuously improving your product based on customer feedback— as opposed to spending a significant amount of time developing a strategy for the long term. If you’ve been to business school, you know that’s kind of the opposite of how business plans usually work.

Our workflows have been changing on a weekly basis, so our company will look completely different in a few months. That’s for the best since it will be based on feedback from both our chefs and customers.

At first, I built an outline to spend 3 weeks building a CRM. This seemed like an ambitious yet practical proposition. I’m responsible for keeping track of a large number of candidates. I qualify them, interview, gather documentation, and onboard them. It turned out finding a better way to organize and automate this process was not only misaligned with my day-to-day responsibilities, but it doesn’t fit with our lean methodology. 

Why My Original Plan Didn’t Work

Since the actual onboarding process is constantly changing, utilizing such a tool would create more work than it would reduce. Every change we make in the onboarding process would have to be reflected in the tool. This would be fine if they were small adjustments, but they aren’t. It’s likely that in 3-6 months, a tool that I spent 2-3 weeks implementing would no longer be useful because our workflows will be completely different.

When this is the case, I learned tools or workflows shouldn’t take more than a week to implement and aren’t directly tied to workflows.

A great example is Calendly. Calendly is easy to set up and automates meeting scheduling. Meeting with candidates will almost always be valuable. But in the case of an in-depth CRM, the time and cost of the tool outweighed the benefit (time savings through the organization of data). 

From here on out, I’ll be providing my weekly goals, my results, what workflow adjustments were made, and how this all contributes to our overall goals.

You’ll get a look behind the scenes at an early-stage startup and insight on what works and what doesn’t and how we’re adjusting every aspect of our processes. 

Original Outline Overview (CRM Implementation)

Here was the original plan. It was gonna be great. I do still wish I had this tool. *sigh*

Weeks 1 & 2:

  • Produce 5 candidate relationship management software options based on our needs and goals
  • Create a comparison table between the various options
    • Narrow down to 3 tools
    • Find similar companies/startups that are using each software
    • Evaluate integrations, automation, communication with varying priorities
    • Move forward with software, watch/read introductory tutorials and begin setup
    • Document comparison table and initial setup in Loom/blog post
  • (Ongoing) Gather feedback from peers in Slack

Weeks 3 & 4:

  • Start implementation and testing with real candidates
  • Review software with CEO and determine effectiveness
  • Choose a different software or begin importing candidate data
  • Create follow up templates with incentives to maintain momentum in the hiring process
  • Document initial testing and software fit
  • Develop final landing page to present project

The final deliverable would have been an automated, integrated candidate relationship management software that improves the efficiency of getting candidates hired on our chef platform with documentation on its use for future reference.

Updated Outline for Weeks 3 & 4

Instead, here’s what I’m doing each week for the remainder of the month:

  • Document OKRs (Objectives & Key Results)
  • Document progress at a high level
  • Share what went right (& wrong) and why; lessons learned
  • Develop final landing page to present project

Takeaways

While changing my project halfway through the month was a tough decision that required lots of discussion with my peers, this proved to be a valuable lesson in being adaptable. While I’d prefer this doesn’t happen again, I’m sure it will. In the future, I’ll be able to predict prioritizing and timing a project based on several factors, rather than simply thinking “this would be nice!”.

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