How Effective are Your SaaS Learning Loops?
By Justin Talerico
Aug 27 2019
Agile is great, but we need to continuously process and ingest what we learn. Here’s how.
Agile management across the majority of a SaaS organization provides the framework for rapid, innovation, iteration and improvement. Ultimately, the efficiency of that improvement comes down to how well we ingest and distribute what’s being learned — our SaaS learning loops.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen concentrated pockets of institutional knowledge in growing SaaS companies. The result of that concentration is much more than dependency on those individuals. It directly impacts scalability. And, perhaps most significantly, it retards momentum and growth by trapping learning that would likely inform acceleration of ideas and people across the organization.
INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE GRUBBING IS HUMAN NATURE
Early employees of growing SaaS startups love their employee number. Part of that pride comes from knowing everything since the beginning. It’s a natural badge of honor, as well as a job security blanket. I’m not suggesting this is some intentional, malicious, diabolical plan to trap the knowledge. But I’ve seen the tendency a lot. And it usually hurts the organization.
SAAS ORGANIZATIONS NEED TO BE BUILT TO NATURALLY AND CONTINUOUSLY INGEST AND DISTRIBUTE WHAT THEY LEARN.
The more widespread knowledge is, the more people can be inspired to draft their own ideas on top of it.
A Thin Layer of Process Atop Agile
Sprints and standups yield a lot of rapid learning. The challenge is that much of it slips through a sieve of standup conversation or ephemeral cards or tickets. Preservation isn’t a natural part of most processes.
But it doesn’t take much to change that pattern. The commitment to SaaS learning loops is really a cultural mandate to identify, ingest, and preserve what’s important. Not everything. Just what’s important. So on top of the cultural mandate from thetop, you need smart people who can make those decisions at the top of their learning funnel.
SaaS Learning Loops are a Management Thing
Hopefully, your smart people are in leadership roles. And hopefully, they’re standing in standups and retrospecting sprint boards. If those things are true, it’s incumbent on them to identify what’s important to preserve and annotate from your SaaS leanring loops. This is most notable in standups because so many valuable things can get lost in those brief updates — especially in sales and marketing. But once that muscle is habitually working, it’s thin and easy to capture the value.
But once they capture it, where does it go?
We like living, breathing wikis that the entire company knows to be the place for institutional knowledge. Each department can have its own section of the wiki that they curate on a periodic basis — start with quarterly curate-athons that the department collaborates on for an hour to review, cut, annotate and append recent learning. Then they can summarize their momentum makers to the organization in an all-hands format, email or slack channel that links back to the wiki. It’s not hard. It’s thin. And it works. Learning can easily become a rallying point and cultural lantern.
It’s all very simple. The idea is to build upon what you’ve done. And for new ideas and refinements to be inspired by that water under the bridge. A cultural mandate and a few extra minutes a day can translate into incredible value and competitive advantage. And, in the end, pockets of deep institutional knowledge are widened — reducing dependencies and dramatically increasing your organization’s scalability. That distribution is also inspiring for the greater good. Yes, employee number four no longer feels so special. But employees number 40-175 are now empowered to contribute to your growth, prosperity, and momentum in meaningful, connected ways. That’s the power of SaaS learning loops.