I am a die-hard Friends fan, when I hear the word ‘pivot’ in any context it conjures the image an exasperated Ross trying to squeeze a large bed through a narrow stairwell. It’s funny, it’s true and much like Ross’ efforts, if one does not recalibrate quickly it could result in a lot of effort for nought. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries has re-calibrated my thinking and opened up new paradigms for not only the word ‘pivot’ particular to a business context, but also sprinkled inalienable truths around entrepreneurship and approaches to innovation.
Few business books have succeeded in doing what it says on the tin: contains effective and unconventional methodologies that are proven to transform your business. Proceed with caution. The Lean Startup delivers.
The book is written from Ries’ experiential insights and a level of personal detail that allows for an engaging, light conversational tone. As a technology entrepreneur and author of the successful blog Startup Lessons Learned, Ries uses his personable sharing-style to elevate his concepts for easier theoretical digestion. The book is comfortably divided into three parts outlining his suggested Lean Start Up methods that aim to streamline business for continued effectiveness. His learnings are based on his insights drawn from his successful startup, IMVU: an instant messaging service that enables communication between users via the use of avatars.
Part One: Vision, is based on the critical foundations required to build innovative companies. Personally, I found one of the key insights from this section was not so much the courageous offer of a working definition of a startup, rather the paradigm shift to (re)consider entrepreneurship as disciplined management. Ries asserts that entrepreneurs are everywhere, and startups are ‘…a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty’. This centers on defining, experimenting and learning as the initial steps in your business. This framework encourages experimentation and validated learning as crucial early on in the Start up’s life.
Part Two: Steer, continues the experimental vein but adds to it the flair of the build-measure-learn feedback loop aiming for the least amount of time per loop revolution. As I explored part two I chuckled to myself, that as revealed by Ries, it all seemed quite common sense. Yet there are so few businesses that operate on this level – funny how common sense is not that common. Key interrogative questions such as: What assumptions is your strategy based upon? What is the inference from things hidden in plain sight (analogs and antilogs)? Have you harnessed the value of a minimum viable product (MVP) that aims to answer and test your fundamental business hypothesis? Yeah, he bee-lines for entrepreneurial self reflection. If it is not working, pivot i.e. change direction based on validated learnings. Much like Ross from Friends, recalibrate quickly or suffer a dropped bed frame and a painful swollen toe.
‘Be tolerant of all mistakes the first time. Never allow the same mistake to be made twice’ – Ries. E, 2011
Part three: Accelerate, focusses on Lean Start up techniques that help preserve crucial speed and agility, whilst maintaining growth within the start up. Ries offers insight to building an adaptive organization utilizing the The Five Why’s to help startup’s grow without becoming dysfunctional. Ries details the implementation of lessons learned from lean manufacturing at IMVU by developing a process they called ‘continuous deployment’; ensuring multiple releases are delivered to customers daily, in of course, an environment that accommodates for the assurance of unfettered service delivery.
A book review will not do this book justice. It has arguably already become a modern classic, and will continue to be a staple on many a future-proofing entrepreneur’s bookshelf. To adopt the Toyota’s lean manufacturing term ‘genchi genbutsu’, I encourage you to ‘go and see’ for yourself and invest the time to read the book cover to cover. Ries has not only identified friction areas within startups and entrepreneurial ventures, but has also offered a tantalizingly effective framework to address and solve these frictions.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and entrepreneurship requires a new kind of management. If it is not working, change it – but change it based on validated learnings. Know that your Build-Measure-Learn loop is your route to to turn ideas into products and in order to improve entrepreneurial outcomes take stock, and do your innovation accounting. These key tenets are the essence of the Lean Startup Movement – a movement striving to decode how constant innovation can and will lead to success.
If you have not yet read this book, read it, stop wasting time.
‘It’s not what the book costs. It’s what it will cost you if you don’t read it.’ – J. Rohn
Written by: MichelleMace2015