The principles of Lean – respect for people, eliminating waste, and fact-based management – make perfect sense in the manufacturing sector. But what does Lean have to do with the rest of us who can’t tell a hammer head from a hammerhead?
A lot, actually.
For instance, imagine you’re starting a company, or just hoping to launch your existing company into a new market or product. Does understanding and respecting your customers, providing maximal value with minimal waste, and making daily improvement to your product or process sound like something a successful startup would do? You bet.
That’s why Eric Ries, and entrepreneur and engineer, coined the term “Lean Startup” to describe a systematic, agile approach to launching new ventures. And he’s taking his lessons from Lean.
My belief is that these lean startups will achieve dramatically lower development costs, faster time to market, and higher quality products in the years to come. Whether they also lead to dramatically higher returns for investors is a question I’m looking forward to studying.
In the competitive world of entrepreneurship, Ries argues that success or failure is determined less by the uniqueness of your “killer idea”, and more by how quickly you can learn what your customer really wants, implement it, and measure the impact. Rinse and repeat.
A successful company has the ability to complete this cycle quickly, maximizing their ability to “pivot” as one path closes and another opens. In a software development context, a traditional startup may develop new versions every 1-3 years. A Lean startup uses continuous deployment, pushing releases up to 50 times in a single day. Such a short time between identifying customer values and actually providing the solution means there is little time wasted developing features customers may not want.
I encourage you to check out this excellent webinar Ries gave with the Lean Enterprise Institute, view some case studies from the Startup Lessons Learned Conference, or read more about him in last month’s New York Times.
He blogs at http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/