I was fortunate to spend most of the day yesterday at Lean UX NYC listening to a great slate of speakers open a 3-day event devoted to the topic. I’m pleased to see so much interest in this topic, and so many speakers with so much to say. Lane Halley, (who along with Courtney Hemphill gave a terrific, grounded presentation about their practices at Carbon Five) calls this “the way we work now.” I think that’s true for an increasing number of people on digital product teams, and I think that’s why we’re seeing such an explosion of interest in this approach.
I admit that I sometimes worry if the term “Lean” has jumped the shark, as it makes such a handy prefix for so many practices. (I am certainly guilty of this, having just published a book called “Lean UX.”) I gasped a bit when I the phrase “Lean Branding” appeared on screen in a conference deck yesterday. But Oonie Chase and Cindy Gallop did a great job linking the creative brand explorations of the ad agency world to the practical “make it work” side of UX practice. One of the knocks on the Lean approach is that it’s iterative approach doesn’t explicitly encourage visionary work. But Gallop is clearly cut from visionary cloth, and you could see from their presentation how Chase and Gallop and the rest of the MakeLoveNotPorn team have built a cross-functional collaboration to manifest that vision.
That cross-functional collaboration is at the heart of Lean approaches, I think. That’s why I think we’re seeing so many “Lean [X]” discussions. If you’re a specialist in X, it should be easy to see that there’s a place for you on a Lean team. Tomer Sharon’s research presentation showed how that works for researchers. Melissa Perri showed how it works for Product Managers. Johanna Kollman showed how it works for early-stage startup consulting. Virginia Cagwin and Ariadna Font Llitjos showed how enterprise specialists approach it. So even though I worry about jumping the shark, at the end of the day, I think the label is apt.
I wanted to give a shout out to Grace Ng, who gave a really honest presentation about her personal learning journey with Lean. To me, the best part of Lean is the orientation towards continuous learning. I am always impressed by folks who are willing to stand up on stage and say, “This is what I did. This is what worked and what didn’t. Here’s what I learned.”
Finally, I wish I didn’t have to comment on the laudable gender diversity of the presenters, but it’s important to call out success in this area: congrats to the organizers for gathering such a high-quality and diverse panel of speakers.
If you’re in NYC and can get to the conference for the remaining two days, I would encourage you all to go.