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4.0 out of 5 stars
Lean or just princpled?, 4 Oct 2011
Ries pitches the lean startup as a principled based approach to product development. At one level what is being advocated is nothing more than a modified Deming's PDCA cycle and the exploitation of the feedback loop, as outlining in Deming's page 4 diagram from Out of the Crisis, via small batch sizes. The book is much more than this as he has operationalise these approaches.
The modified Deming cycle of build-measure-learn is supported by validated learning and the use of actionable metrics to support decision making. Validated learning reflects Senge idea of organisational learning and actionable metrics are not vanity metrics, such as utilisation, but ones that have implications for the bottom line.
Validated learning makes use of quick iterations to support learning. The learning comes from use using A/B testing to validate hypothesis based on a customer archetypical. This means that idea can be tried out very quickly to see of the original ideas have any value. uSwitch are using this method in the UK and have been very successful with test being run daily.
Accountable metrics ensure that you are focusing on the right metrics and tuning the engine of growth. If you are not then this may lead to pivoting which he refers as repurposing. This has an echo of purposeful systems and Ackoff in which both means and the ends can be chosen. We do this by establish a baseline and measure progress towards the ideal. Periodically we need to validate the progress that we are making and either pivot or preserve.
The baseline is based on minimum viable product (there is a section on what constitutes a minimum viable product in the book but it is similar in to Denne's Minimum Marketable Feature). The ideal is the numbers in the business case which may be conversion rate, the total number of customer or revenue. Too often people plan the plan and then execute the plan only to find when the funds or time run out that premise was flawed. The use of small batches and the ability to get customer feed promptly means that we can make good decisions and have the time to take action.
What I also like are counter intuitive statements and there are a few in this book. I particularly like the points that he makes about the organisation needing to be protected from the start-up groups. Normally people talk about the group undertaking innovation being protected from the organisation but Ries points out that this does lead to repeatable innovation and gives IBM's creation of the PC as an example. I also like that he recognised that the approach is declarative in nature as it a framework and not prescriptive or a blueprint.
There is a lot to recommend this book and I'm sure you will get something out of the time invested in reading it