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Mark Graban

Mark Graban: Good lean practices which start with an obsession with customers

By Mark Graban, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I think the Lean Startup movement is off to a good start. When I first saw Eric Ries give a presentation about this at MIT in late 2009, I worried that it was just going to be a buzzword… but there’s some real Lean Thinking there. It’s not quite the complete management system and philosophy that Lean / TPS provides, but there are some good Lean principles that are spreading, including:

Customer focus: The Lean Startup (TLS) is pretty customer obsessive… understanding the day in the life of your customer (“get out of the office!” as they say) and what their real needs and customer value actually is (as opposed to entrepreneurs guessing or thinking they know).

Respect for People: Eric emphasizes that entrepreneurs should not waste the time of talented developers by having them produce software that people don’t really want in the market.

Root Cause Problem Solving: Keeping with the theme, TLS advocates talk a lot about not blaming individuals for problems (like server crashes) and instead looking at systems and processes, asking “why?” to get to a root cause or causes.

PDSA: Ries has coined the “Build-Measure-Learn” cycle, which is a form of Plan-Do-Study-Adjust, an iterative model for building software and building one’s business model.

I initiated and coordinated LEI hosting Eric on a webinar back in 2010, you can hear the recording here:

http://www.lean.org/events/webinarhome.cfm#lessons

TLS movement has some familiar challenges — the tendency for some people to want to copy just one aspect of TLS instead of embracing a holistic system. That seems to be holding TLS movement back a bit (as people sometimes blame their business failures on TLS methods), but it has been adopted not just by startups, but also by big companies like GE and Intuit. I think this is a movement worth following and participating in.

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