Learn how to use pilots and project experiments to build momentum within your role and the broader organization and prove value over time.
- Piloting is not a one and done proposition. It's likely that you'll run several pilots until you figure out what sticks, what smaller bets might you want to expand upon. Each time you go through this process you'll learn about yourself and refine ideas about who you want to work with and what you want to work on. Once you've completed a pilot or even several concurrently, the next step is to evaluate what worked and what didn't. Even while following the pivot method at a high level you can return to the first two stages as a way to evaluate a particular pilot.
For example, plant, what worked well that you could repeat? Scan, what additional information might you need? Is there anyone else who would helpful to connect with? And third, pilot, what might be a variation on your initial test that you could try next? Seth Marbin, one of my coworkers at Google, started at the company in 2006 doing search quality evaluation, which meant reviewing several hundred of the worst quality websites every day to make sure they didn't show up in search results. Needless to say, the job was not a direct connection to what he felt was his higher calling.
In 2007, Stacy Sullivan, Google's Chief Culture Officer, put out a call for team building ideas, as Google had just doubled in size from 7,000 to 14,000 employees. So Seth proposed a company-wide service day to help employees connect to each other and their local communities. He had experienced the power of volunteering to break down social barriers during his time in AmeriCorps, and was inspired by Timberland's Serv-a-palooza, in which the company shut down all operations for one day to complete service projects.
In his spare time, Seth recruited a small team, not yet officially sanctioned as one of Google's well-known 20% projects, and together they launched a company-wide initiative called Google Serve. Under this program all employees could take one day off to volunteer over the course of a week. In the first year the Google Serve team engaged 3,000 participants across 45 offices. Over two years they doubled that number to 6,000 in 70 offices. And the program became recognized as a cornerstone of Google's community involvement.
By 2015 Google Serve ballooned to 14,000 participants. Though it would have been a massive pilot success at that, this wasn't the end of Seth's pivot. After three years of leading Google Serve as a side project, Seth pitched, then moved into a full-time role focused on Google's philanthropy efforts, an internal pivot encouraged by his manager at the time. He's now a program manager on the Googlers Give team, working with a team of 10 people focused on year around employee volunteering and giving programs.
Seth's trajectory demonstrates several important piloting principles. One, starting with a small test to determine viability and interest. Two, piloting without any attachment to this being his full-time job, though he did have the vision that one day that might be possible. Third, demonstrating increasing adoption and success every year. Integrating Google Serve with his core role after proving its value to the organization. Not waiting until an official role opened up to begin, though he did get agreement from this manager that he could work on this initiative as a part-time project.
Fourth, he created a shared vision for the company for employees and for himself about what would be possible by doing projects in this area. Seth chose a pilot, then repeated it each year in a bigger way that led to a four-fold win for the parties involved. Seth got to spend time doing work inline with his values, strengths, and vision, Googlers were thrilled to take time off to volunteer and serve their communities, on a company level, Google advanced its social impact efforts, and thousands of community projects around the world received much needed hands-on resources and support.
- Optimizing your current role
- Identifying your strengths
- Crafting a one-year vision of success
- Making connections to "friendtors" and one-off mentors
- Creating a skill-building game plan
- Identifying small experiments and stretch projects
- Embracing smart risks
- Mapping next moves to make a greater impact