Pretend your internal initiative is a startup

Think of whatever internal initiative your company is pushing right now. Is it an agile transformation? Are you trying to grow your devops competency? Maybe you’re getting into the CDP space? Whatever it is, you probably have a small team of internal people owning it.

Pretend for a second that it’s not internal; instead, let’s say you hired a startup to lead it. Would you still be paying that startup? How would your employees rate it? Is it delivering the results you wanted? Would you have even hired that particular startup in the first place?

The great thing about startups is that they either find a product/market fit, or they die. That process is everything. It usually involves lots of experimentation, observing problems, asking questions, talking about Jobs To Be Done, all kinds of stuff. There are thousands of books written about it.

Internal initiatives tend to skip all of that. A few executives get together and decide that the company needs to do X, and a team is put together for it. Nobody is interviewed, no problems are observed, no questions are asked, and what’s a JTBD again?

“But we did do all that stuff!” Sure you did, for the market of potential clients, but that’s not your market in this case. The market is your internal employees. The startup needs to provide a service to your internal employees, so that they can in turn start providing a service to the potential clients. Did you interview your internal employees? Did you observe their problems? Did you talk about their Jobs To Be Done?

Probably not, so you end up with initiatives that are building a product before a market fit is determined. Is there any chance a startup would ever succeed with that origin story? How many initiatives have you seen die on the vine – most of them? Could it be that adoption never really happened naturally, because the product being offered solved all the wrong problems?

Startup thinking could solve that. Take a note from The Lean Startup and run cheap, easy experiments to get to the root of the problems that actually need solving. Or read The Mom Test and start asking people about their problems without ever talking about your solutions.

Treat your internal employees like the market that they are. Find the product/market fit for them, and build the startup they would love to hire.

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