"Lean" Legal: Empowering business teams and companies to rapidly experiment
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"Lean" Legal: Empowering business teams and companies to rapidly experiment



Learn how Intuit has adopted lean practices in an unlikely place - its legal department – by adopting a "getting to yes" mindset that enables innovation rather than hinders it. ...

Learn how Intuit has adopted lean practices in an unlikely place - its legal department – by adopting a "getting to yes" mindset that enables innovation rather than hinders it.

This white paper describes how the Intuit legal team developed a set of guidelines designed to enable product teams to run multiple types of experiments without prior legal review – as its own internal experiment.



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"Lean" Legal: Empowering business teams and companies to rapidly experiment Document Transcript

  • 1. “LEAN” LEGAL EMPOWERING BUSINESS TEAMS AND COMPANIES TO RAPIDLY EXPERIMENT INTUIT WHITEPAPER INTRODUCTION In his book The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries builds a compelling case for an approach to build successful and innovative companies using a method centered on validated learning through rapid experimentation. Rather than spending millions of R&D dollars and countless hours to build the perfect product, Ries suggests the first question teams should answer is whether a product should be built at all. The goal of his validated learning approach is to figure out the right thing to build – the thing customers want and will pay for – as quickly as possible. How your team can go about answering that question is through an experimentation process where you build, measure and learn – an iterative feedback loop with customers. You turn ideas into a “minimum viable product” (MVP), measure how customers respond and then learn whether to pivot (change course or strategy) or persevere (continue building). The result of employing the Lean Startup approach is that companies are able to be more nimble, innovate faster, make decisions with more reliable real-world data (customer behavior) and have a greater level of confidence in their future success. Startups and established companies, like Intuit, have embraced the Lean Startup approach as a means to solve important customer problems in innovative ways. Based on his years of experience and keen insights, Intuit Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee Scott Cook has developed his own set of principles for how he believes leadership in the innovation age will need to change. The second principle is that “leaders install the systems and culture to enable experimentation.” Intuit’s legal department has begun to install a system and culture to enable experimentation by employing the Lean Startup approach to deliver legal services to its internal clients. The remainder of this white paper describes at a high level how the Intuit legal team developed a set of guidelines designed to enable product teams to run multiple types of experiments without prior legal review – as its own internal experiment. BY JOE HERNANDEZ @JOEHERNANDEZ_1 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 2. INSTALLING AN EXPERIMENTATION CULTURE AND SYSTEM Conducting in-market experiments with MVPs can present some legal challenges. The extent of the legal issues will depend upon the nature of the business, your target customers and the structure/scope of the experiments. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. We believe legal business partners can work together with their product leaders to find an appropriate balance between risk and serving important customer needs. As we have worked through these issues within Intuit, we believe there are three key elements to install an experimentation culture and system and in turn empower product teams to rapidly experiment. I. ADOPT A “GETTING TO YES” MINDSET Your role as the legal counsel and fiduciary for the company is an important enabler for your company’s strategy. It is table stakes for you to understand the business strategy and objectives that your product teams are trying to accomplish with their experiments. Just as important as understanding the business strategy is how you engage with the business. How you engage will often set the tone for that interaction and could indirectly influence the advice and counsel you provide. As legal professionals we are trained to spot the issues. As a result, we often first engage by spotting all the possible issues that may need to be addressed with a proposed experiment. While this approach provides a comprehensive view to the business, it carries the shadow of creating a perception of a “legal gauntlet” that the business may need to endure. Instead, we coach our team to lead with our own enthusiasm and passion for the product/experiment idea as the starting point. Taking this approach shows the business that we are equally excited about the customer opportunity; we want to work together as collaborative partners and have a vested interest in figuring out how to bring the experiment to life. Once the business sees that you have a shared sense of purpose, then you can start to add value by helping to strike that balance between risk and benefit based on the type of business your company is in and the risk tolerance of the company. Page 2 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 3. A way that can help you to arrive at that “sweet spot” is to shift your mindset from identifying all the possible risks associated with an experiment to a “getting to yes” mindset. In other words, how can I make this experiment a success for both my company and our customers? How can I identify the real and likely risk associated with the experiment, and then how can we structure an experiment to enable learning? Risk is inherent in every business endeavor, so what helps the business is to be able to be clear, concise AND practical. Is the risk a “scraping our knee” type of risk versus a “bet the company” type of risk? If it’s the former, again, with a “getting to yes” mindset, how can you work with your business partners to structure an experiment? If it’s the latter, how can you help adjust the scope of the experiment to bring focus to testing the most critical hypothesis while reducing risk? Getting to yes requires that you fully understand the experiment and its goals. The practice points below illustrate how our legal team has gained the confidence to get to yes. PRACTICE POINTS: ◊ Meet with a number of your product teams to understand: • the nature of the experiment • what their hypothesis is • what their leap of faith assumptions are • what their prediction on results is • what and how they will measure • if it is branded or non-branded by your company • how much data they will need to be able to have meaningful results and over what period of time ◊ Understand the customer experience: • are they existing or new customers • what would be their reaction to the experiment: slightly annoyed, delighted, other • what customer data, if any, will they be collecting and for what purpose, and will it be retained and for how long • how much control does the team have over the flow of customers; can they modulate the number and type of customers • who will be exposed to the experiment • what’s the expectation we are creating with customers when they participate • are they planning on providing any type of small token of appreciation, e.g. an Amazon gift card for participating Page 3 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 4. Although it may be an overused cliché, rapid experimentation represents a transformation not only for startups but also for larger established companies looking to innovate. I strongly encourage legal counsel to read The Lean Startup. As experimentation becomes part of a company’s fabric, it will be the successful legal counsel who embraces a “getting to yes” mindset. II. DEMOCRATIZE ACTION - EMPOWER YOUR TEAMS TO MOVE QUICKLY WITHOUT YOU Whether you are the sole in-house counsel or part of a large department, scaling to meet the demands of the business will always be a challenge. This challenge will only increase as teams incorporate rapid experimentation methodology into their processes. As a result, legal counsel should seek to create guidelines or other self-help tools to empower product teams to conduct experiments. At Intuit, we not only created guidelines to enable experiments, but framed them in such a way that teams do not have to engage with legal at all. Before you rush to create guidelines, resist the urge to frame them as a series of do’s and don’ts. A document of do’s and don’ts can be perceived as presenting absolutes versus providing guidance or parameters where teams have some latitude to exercise judgment given their unique circumstance. PRACTICE POINTS: ◊ Characteristics of awesome guidelines • Simple, less is more, avoid the temptation to cover every possible scenario • Plain English, eliminate legalese • Iterate with your business partners not to them; their real-time feedback is a critical part of the process • Actionable; it should be crystal clear how teams can move forward • Confidence inspiring; teams want to do the right thing so give them the confidence to conduct their experiment without fear of being second-guessed… “reduce the cost of failure for teams” • Focus on the critical few; what are the “must-haves” vs. “nice-to-haves” Where do you start? While there are multiple ways to attack this type of effort, the following represents a simplified version of the approach we undertook. Page 4 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 5. STEP 1 – UNDERSTAND YOUR INTERNAL EXPERIMENT LANDSCAPE AND LEARNING OBJECTIVES It may not be feasible to identify 100% of the experiments that teams want to conduct, but if you can identify what most teams will want to do, it’s probably enough to create reusable guidelines. STEP 2 - ASSESS THE REGULATORY/LEGAL LANDSCAPE AND IMPLICATIONS Again, while risk is inherent in much of our business activities, apply a “getting to yes” lens to how you assess the real impact and likelihood of potential risks based on the nature of your company’s business. Think about and brainstorm with your business partners on creative ways you might be able to manage those risks through the structure of the experiment, e.g. limitations on duration, type of customer, disclaimers, messaging, etc. Consider all of the various elements of an experiment and how they could act as levers that you can adjust to address the most critical risks. The goal is not to eliminate risk but rather to manage it to an acceptable level. If you find that your particular business activity is highly regulated, explore whether there are ways to reconfigure the experiment so it falls outside the scope of the applicable regulation. Are there exemptions for certain activities in the regulation and consider whether your experiment can fit into that exemption. STEP 3 - “BUCKETIZE” THE EXPERIMENTS AND DRAFT GUIDELINES In order to simplify the actions that product teams will need to take, consider how you can create similar categories or types of experiments that would lend themselves to following one set of guidelines. At Intuit, we continue to assess and modify our guidelines, but we have identified 3 types of experiments for our business. These types are not 100% discrete, and, in fact, there is overlap between the types of tests. We generally believe the characteristics associated with these categories lend themselves to similar guidelines. Page 5 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 6. Make sure you check in with your business teams to gain their feedback on how you have categorized the experiments. Are they accurate from a business perspective? Do the categories make sense to them? What’s missing from them? Once the business feels like you have identified the right categories, develop guidelines around scope or parameters for each category of experiment. Consider structuring the guidelines as scenarios for different experiments such that if the actual experiments match your scenario, teams have the green light to proceed. Page 6 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 7. Here are some possible structures for guidelines. They are examples only and not exhaustive of the possible ways to craft guidelines. ◊ Describe those “must-have” elements or acceptable parameters, such as: • Maximum number of users/participants • Duration of test • Type of information permissible to collect • Branding ◊ Provide guidance on how to implement: • Create standard/customized components for teams to use, like privacy statements, terms of service, if applicable, etc. • Pre-approved product flows or landing page, thank-you page language • Guidance on the order of pages As you draft the guidelines, remember to check in with the business teams to gain their feedback in realtime. Try not to draft all the guidelines at once. An iterative approach will help you to know whether you are on the right path to building something durable. Do teams understand them? Are they clear on what they can do? Do they know how to escalate or when to work with you on experiments outside the scope of the guidelines? The measure of success is whether the guidelines are helpful and something they will use. STEP 4 – COMMUNICATE AND INSTILL CONFIDENCE It’s not enough to draft awesome guidelines. You have to have a strategy for communicating their existence and how teams can use them to further their business objectives. So, create a plan for how you will make the guidelines available and consider the following. What’s your communication strategy to ensure the appropriate teams know about the guidelines and how to find them? How will new employees learn about the guidelines? How will you inform the business when the guidelines have been changed? Page 7 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.
  • 8. At Intuit, we worked with our corporate communications team to publish an internal news article when the guidelines were launched. We created an internal website where all employees would have access to the guidelines. We identified key employees who were charged with evangelizing the Lean Startup principles and asked them to also evangelize the guidelines. We provided the guidelines to a centralized design team who creates the toolkits for experimentation so that they could be included. We presented the guidelines at various staff meetings and other forums for product managers. As part of the new hire onboarding process for product managers, we have included a link to the guidelines. III. INCORPORATE EXPERIMENTATION INTO HOW YOU WORK Finally, treat the guidelines you have created as a living document. Periodically, reach out to your product teams to confirm that the guidelines are still providing value. Continue to test and push the boundaries for the type of experiments you are willing to green light without your prior review. Conversely, you may also experience issues that suggest that you need to pull back on some experiments. Either way, incorporate the “lean” mindset and process into how you support your business around other areas. Page 8 DECEMBER 2013 ©2013 Intuit. All rights reserved.