Corona atá tú?

Sometimes it takes a kick up the arse to get you to think about what’s really important.

In this context, COVID-19 has gotten me to focus better on what we should be doing at Bitesize Irish.

Minimum viable audience

I’ve bought into focussing on a minimum viable audience. This past year, we’ve been focussing on this set of people:

People attending Irish language classes outside of Ireland.

Why them? It’s been part of Bitesize’s history that we’ve leaned toward people finding the Irish language in their own time, rather than people who went through Irish schooling. The focus on people attending classes was pivotal, because they are people who have a bias toward action. They spend time and money to pursue their interest. These are our set of people to seek out and delight.

Transformed minimum viable audience

But COVID-19 has turned that upside down: no-one is attending classes! At least not physically, with some classes converting over to online video groups.

I ran a survey last weekend on the Bitesize Irish newsletter to find out how the pandemic has affected people with respect to their Irish language learning. 250 people responded during the weekend. Fifty of those normally attend classes, and just about all of them have had their classes cancelled. These people are still the same people, but their normal habits have transformed how we might be able to help them. The grounds has fundamentally shifted.

Where we’re coming from

During the first quarter of this year, we’ve done two things that people have really enjoyed:

  • Ceardlann Foghraíochta – online pronunciation workshop. A two-week interactive workshop centered around daily structured calls for deliberate practice, and supported by a private forum.
  • Q&As – live YouTube broadcasts, with questions collected beforehand, and also taking questions during the call.

During the previous year, I had come to the idea that our core statement is Gaeilge Gach Lá (Irish every day). Because without making a language part of your every day, you can’t expect to progress much with it, even if you attend weekly classes. The vision of Bitesize has been transforming from one of online self-directed learning, to active participatory interactive practice. Robert Greene in Mastery asserts that if you continually practice your skill, you become a practitioner.

In implementing Gaeilge Gach Lá, we came to the attempted solution of Bitesize Pobal, a private community forum with daily challenges to prompt members to practice Irish, with added weekly live conversation practice calls. In reality, the community has shown promise but has not taken off, and we’ve reached the Dip. The community is behind our higher membership plan, which puts a higher price on increased interacting, but is a barrier to many to consider joining. The COVID-19 pandemic has put all this to the forefront.

New targets

By two weeks ago, it was clear that we needed to do “something”. Bitesize Irish has loads of potential for our audience who are now at home, and possibly with much more time on their hands. However, some may be at risk of losing their jobs – I don’t think our business can change to serve people without incomes.

I’ve decided on a quarterly goal for the business:

Increase the number of daily active members in the online community from 4 to 50 by 30th June 2020.

How do we get there? I’m intrigued by 4DX – The Four Disciplines of Execution. It’s a framework of “managing by objectives” (a descendant idea which includes Peter Drucker as an ancestor). It seems to differ from the popular Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework, in that 4DX concentrates on identifying and acting upon on-going lead measures. So rather than concentrate on a Key Result of “5,000 newsletter subscribers” for example, you might have a Lead Measure of “Invite 50 new people to join the newsletter each week”.

Again, our “Wildly Important Goal” (WIG) from the 4DX approach is: “Increase the number of daily active members in the online community from 4 to 50 by 30th June 2020”. I’ve broken this into two sub WIGs:

  • Increase the percentage of daily active community members from X% to Y% by 30th June 2020 (figures to be decided), and,
  • Increase the number of community plan members from X to Y by 30th June 2020 (figures to be decided)

The first is to make the community really valuable for its members. The second is to get more of these people into the community, as this will have an exponential increase of value for everyone involved given network effects.

Which “lead measures” will be the most effective route to get there? What’s the smallest set of “battles” we take on to achieve these goals? On the Bitesize team, we have a few ideas floating around, but within 4DX we’ll identify the ones with highest impact and track those measures.

P.S. Over time I lean back and forth between these measurable management styles, and freer creative transformations. I think I’m in a good place now for the measured transformations, as we have the fundamentals