Wave 3

2 days, 40 People and a Bus: Lean Startup + Lean Software

Duration (30, 60, 90) — 60 minutes

Audience Level — Anyone interested in learning about one organization’s attempt to throw lean product people and lean startup people into a massive jumble to see what comes out

Session Style — Presentation

For 5 years we’ve put our money where our agile mouth’s have been. We have a 37 year old, multi-million dollar business to protect and grow, and we’re convinced that agile and lean provide the best way for us to manage risk and exploit opportunity. we’ve spent the last few years creating an environment in which people are wildly capable of making the right decisions at the right time. Individuals are given as much room as possible to think, decide and execute.

We’ve done all this in the library industry, which has been operating roughly the same way for 2500 years. Today, libraries face the greatest threat to their existence since the fires of the middle ages swept away the great institutions of the classical period. Combine digital-age access to endless free information with massive funding pressures and lots of people are left wondering “what role do libraries really have in their communities?”

Libraries and the vendors that serve them must experiment aggressively to seek out answers to these questions. In early 2012, TLC turned to an organization called Lean Startup Machine to put us through a crash course in the some of the key elements of the Lean Startup movement: experimentation, validation / invalidation and pivoting. We put 40 people on a bus at our HQ in the woods of West Virginia and headed off to Washington DC to put our ideas in front of as many people as possible and let them crush them mercilessly. This is our story.

My name is Simon Marcus, I’m the COO at The Library Corporation. I’ve been helping companies learn how to be more effective for 15+ years in a variety of industries, but have focused on software primarily. Along with our CTO, Jabe Bloom, and with the help of Jim Benson, David Anderson and others, we’ve built what I think is one of the most forward-acting lean/agile shops in the world. Other people talk, we do.

I’ve never given this session before.

If you are coming from the Lean Product perspective you will learn something about Lean Startup, and vice versa. You’ll also learn a lot about the complications that arise when two theories that share some common roots and many words actually come together, and how we’ve been overcoming them. If you are a leader or influencer in an established organization that wants to see your teams doing more innovation, you’ll learn a solid approach to getting underway.


Submitted by

Session Leader Name(s): Simon Marcus

Proposed Duration: between 30 and 60 minutes

Stage: Accepted

Feedback Score

33 votes

Idea Details

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Similar Ideas [ 3 ]


  1. Status Changed from Active to Accepted
  2. The idea was posted


  1. Comment

    As I'm just learning about Lean Startup, I'm really interested in discovering more about the collaboration (and collision) between different branches of the Lean tree. From the description, this promises to be a very engaging presentation. (I'm also very keen to see what this bus looked like!)

  2. Comment

    Simon, your story sounds fascinating. I am a little unclear as to exactly what your session will be about though. It is about your personal journey, the Library Corporation, LSM, your bus trip or some combination of all of these?

  3. Comment
    Simon ( Idea Submitter )

    Hi there, the session will be about what led The Library Corporation to explore Lean Startup concepts, how and why we chose LSM as one of the ways in which to do so, what the experience was like for all of us, and what we hope comes next. Is that helpful?

  4. Comment
    Carlton Nettleton
    ( Moderator )

    I give this an 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being perfect)

    I like that you are talking about an interesting topic - libraries. I like that you are talking about your own experiences being successful with these ideas.

    What would make it perfect is not to just have you speak, but bring in the voices of the other people who participated. In your session you talk state "Other people talk, we do". From the description it sounds like the only person who did was you. I would also like to understand how you plan to engage that participants and persist your learning objectives.

  5. Comment
    Simon ( Idea Submitter )

    Hi Carlton: All good points. Unfortunately I can't put all 40 of us on a bus and drive to San Francisco from WV, but we definitely intend to make sure it won't just be my voice coming through in the presentation. We "gang" write just about everything these days. This presentation will be written in Google with anyone in the company who wants to contribute having the ability to jump in and mold it. We are also thinking about intermingling video from the event, as well as possibly video of people sharing their experiences.

  6. Comment

    ex-WV here & lean startup evangelist. Most recently lived in Harpers Ferry.

    Look forward to chatting with you and your session seems inspiring :)


  7. Comment
    ( Moderator )

    I like that it's an experience report, the story sounds compelling. However, 60 minutes of just talking, I think it's too much. Unless there is a lot of participant interation, I would only go for this if it were cut to 30 minutes.

  8. Comment

    This presentation sounds interesting, but I agree with Lisa Crispin - an hour of talking might be a bit much. What would be better would be to invite more audience participation, I feel - so a 30 min. talk and a 30 min. Q&A/group discussion following. You have to keep in mind our local audience in San Francisco is more sophisticated than the average; there are many startup/lean events every week, so these ideas aren't necessarily novel. From a more collaborative/team perspective, the intermingling of video sounds good.

  9. Comment

    I'd be careful with comments about the sophistication of San Franciscans. ;-) It is an easily misinterpreted statement.

    That said, If I could choose to work for anybody in the country I'd choose to work for one of these guys from WV. I know them personally and they're very sophisticated. San Francisco could, and hopefully will, learn a lot from these West Virginia guys. :-)

    On another note, I love experiential learning. I am a huge advocate of it and presenting from the back of the room. If a presenter tells me to close my laptop, turn off my phone or save questions for the end, I usually leave. I wouldn't miss Simon's presentation given the chance. I know what those guys have been up to, and feel like more people would benefit from learning from them.

    AFAIK: This is a conference, not a gaming convention. Let's not get so enamored of our cleverness by excluding people with more traditional presentation styles. Just because there aren't any legos doesn't mean it won't be phenomenal. For example, there were no designed games, or audience interactions in Josh Kerievsky's closing keynote last year, and it remains one of the most amazing talks I've seen. On the flip-side of that coin, one of the interactive games I participated in last year fell way short of the mark, and was a topic of much hallway and elevator discussion.

    That experience makes me strongly suggest feedback mechanisms this year. For games, as well as talks. presenters deserve to know how their presentations were received.

  10. Comment
    Ted M. Young

    I have to disagree with some of the comments that are against the idea of a 60-minute talk. After all, that's exactly what I did last year and it seemed well received. The gamble with any unknown presenter is the quality of their speaking. Perhaps a minute of video of the speaker would help sway us?

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