Hyperlean : what the advent of digital really means


In the “all the books I wanted to write about but had no time to” series, here’s Hyperlean by Cécil Dijoux. And yes, as you can see if you follow the link, it’s available in english.

One more book about digital transformation ? Yes. But this one is special. I’ve read a lot that only spoke to believers or were addicted to the technological “Wow effect”. So many were very inspirational but, in the end, made the reader feel like “so what..what should I do now ?”.

Hyperlean is the exact opposite, and here’s why.


Who ?

A collective of authors led by  Cécil Dijoux, Lean Coach Digital and Services at Operae Partners and  blogger.


Quoi ?

#hyperlean: what the advent of digital really means.

The main idea

A lot of innovations radically changed our lives in the last years and their flow, far from diminishing seems to grow and accelerate endlessly. Of course, it’s mainly led by technology but the businesses that use this technology to deliver products or services to their customers changed the they see their vision of what a business is and  their operating models to move at the speed of technology and the speed of the customer.

The most common actions of our day-to-day lives changes, new behaviors emerged.

On the other hand, traditional businesses changed very little, as if what was happening outside did not impact them, as if the imperative of innovation and acceleration was not for them. More than technology, they struggle to make new ways to do business and operate theirs.

Deeper in details

1°) What is it about ?

Digital transformation is about abolishing time, space and reach anyone in a radical fashion. Beyond this technology driven approach, it’s, first, about fighting against our mental models.

Exploiting the radicality of internet requires to permanently adjust a validated knowledge of the customer, of the business and of its processes.

That’s where businesses often fail at.

2°) Execution is the strategy

The concept of time as we knew it has died and creating a long term strategy which very specific detail will be executed to achieve the expected results is an illusion. The necessary reduction of the time spent between conception and execution and the resilience imperative make thinking and execution nearly simultaneous, each one feeding the other through feedback loops.

3°) The 7 cardinal points of digital transformation

Digital is not a concept, it’s not (only) a matter of technology and consists of a change of the way we think and act in 7 areas : customer relationship, product and services, processes, tools, culture, leadership, teams.

Very little theory here. For each of those areas, the books clearly explains the principle, shows by the example how the digital radicality changes things, what are the anti-patterns, and how to benchmark.

4°) The role of the manager

Unlike all the people predicting the end of managers, the book shows that managers will be more important than ever in the XXIth century. What will change is the definition of the role. Backed with examples.

5°) Digital projects

Since digital is about a big change in operating models, it’s first about how project are managed, especially digital ones.

It’s all the opposite of the XXth century’s mental models : teams sizing an skills, planning, leadership. Everything must contribute to ensure a constant pace in delivery, smooth the load, learn fast, eliminate any kind of waste (and waste of time first).

6°) Engineering in the XXIth century.

If we observe the engineering culture at work at digital leaders, we find the exact opposite of traditional IT culture. Open systems, permanent availability, scalability, accessibility by any kind of device, experiences inspired by the consumer world. It requires to reinvent the IT function with a client/user orientation.

7°) The disintegrated IT department

The IT department as we know it is not a pool of skills anymore but a machine that organizes the work of contractors and providers. They don’t manage people but projects. But the web giants are doing exactly the opposite : internalization, agile experimentation… In a world where tools and the ability to design/run them is a key asset, the integration role of today’s IT depts destroys value.

8°) Knowledge and learning

Lots of people still refer to the knowledge economy, an idea from the last century based on the assumption that some people use their knowledge at work and others don’t. In the XXIth century this model is not relevant anymore since relying on one’s knowledge only only provides a short-term advantage, in opposition to those who acquire new up-to-date knowledge every day.

Current organizations are design to make the most of past-acquired knowledge, digital leaders bet on ongoing knowledge acquisition. It’s a little bit like comparing fossil and renewable energies. We know that one day we’ll run out of some, not of the others.

My opinion

The book’s main idea is brilliant : the link between lean and digital is obvious. Since in many cases digital transformation often ends in improving both the client and employee experience, every time I’m asked what to do or where to start I say : “Simplify and mae things easy‘. If there’s one common denominator shared by all the web giants Cécil refers to it’s that they built their success on simplifying use cases and, moreover, by building organization with no excess weight.

Simplify tools, processes, organizations…if you follow that path you won’t be far from getting somewhere. And instead of thinking about what you’re going to build (add) to show you’re in charge, start with thinking about what you can remove.

That’s for the content.

I also like the style a lot…very lean. No long theories and philosophical thinking : the book is about facts, it’s about description. It did not ask ask you to think about a vision or a theory but describes what is. What actually exists at businesses one could consider exemplary, what exists at businesses that aren’t, and all the concrete, observable and tangible things that will help you know if you’re going in the right direction or not.

Rather than digital transformation, hyperlean is about the operational reality of a business that made the right move because digital is not about tools or a pseudo-culture : it’s about how we organize and work. All the rest derives from that.