I wasn’t familiar The Lean Startup movement until this year, which is one reason that I didn’t push back when I once joined a company (this was before the book but after the movement had a name), and my boss told me that they didn’t want to buy me a laptop because they were “trying to do the whole Lean Startup thing.” Come to find out later that my boss wasn’t really familiar with the Lean Startup concepts either and just assumed that it meant that you should be a cheap ass.
This is the first problem with being a Lean Startup. People think that just because they understand the words in the name of the approach or idea that they understand the concept. I’ve encountered the same issue with things like The Tipping Point or Blink.
Just because you understand the words in a name does not mean that you understand the concept itself.
This is how to build a broken Lean Startup machine.
- Don’t even bother to read the book, and assume you know the principles held within. It is 2012 after all. The book came out in 2011, so you don’t even, like I did, have to google it and read a bunch of disparate articles to figure out what it’s all about. You can get all of the information in one handy package.
- Insist on rapid prototyping without customer feedback.
- Ensure top-down management and decision-making.
- Force everything to move fast… even things that take longer to develop like content or a brand.
- Forget about testing.
It blows my mind – it really does – that people waste money and time jumping from movement to movement without ever fully embracing and learning the concepts behind them, but then, this shouldn’t be all that shocking. A retiring consultant friend of mine once told me:
If you’re at an organization that has gone through restructuring or changes in mission or vision every few years, just look at the bookshelves of the executives. You’ll notice that rudderless companies make a major change to their business every time an influential book comes out and a new movement starts.
And, I couldn’t agree more. The frustrating thing is when changing priorities are coupled with incompetence and misunderstanding. That reduces morale and turns your employees into disheartened, dispassionate workers.
This is how to build a working Lean Startup process.
Be smart. Be nimble. Give the people on the ground, doing the work, the power. Invite your customers in. A/B test smartly with a plan, and make it possible to turn on A/B tests only for a segment of your customers. Most importantly, let go of the reigns.
Whether it’s being a Lean Startup, adopting something older like Just In Time or whatever else comes next, the thing that will torpedo your business more often than not in a time period when every employee has access to social media and is approached by customers wanting help is not letting them act on your behalf and live out their passion through your brand, but rather dictating to them how things should always be done.