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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Let’s focus on similarities and not differences and see Lean as a whole

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, June 2, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Great question! I’m happy to have a venue to share some thoughts I’ve been
having myself about this subject. At its core, Lean Startup and “the
original Lean” (as I call it) have a lot in common. And, in some ways, the
Lean Startup movement has surpassed most companies’ attempts to adopt Lean
principles, practices, and tools. BUT… and it’s a big but…I feel the
movement is producing a fair amount of confusion in the marketplace due to
the word “Lean.” And I don’t think it serves anyone well to have two
separate “Lean” movements. There’s a lot to learn in the Universe and it
seems to me that shared learning is the best approach. To Mike’s point,
the emphasis on iteration and “pivoting” is one of Lean Startup’s greatest
strengths and one that I don’t see many so-called Lean organizations
embracing yet. Very few (if any?) have daily kaizen down.

Last week I had lunch with someone in the Lean Startup movement who
mentioned a Lean Startup leader who “invented kanban.” When I explained
the roots of Kanban and its broad application, my lunch mate was
surprised. He had no idea. I’m seeing and hearing this a fair amount. On
the one hand, we could say that history doesn’t matter–that successful
application does. On the other, I think history is vitally important in
innovating and moving humanity forward.

I would love to see, for example, Eric Ries, be the keynote at AME. Or for
any of us to keynote at a Lean Startup event. I sense division (and have
heard it in conversation) that, again, I don’t think serves anyone well.

This is the first time we’re seeing a popular new movement that plays on
some, but not all, of Toyota’s lessons. I wish it was just Lean and not
Lean Startup, Lean for Legal Firms, Lean Healthcare, Lean for this, Lean
for that. This would help everyone see similarities rather than focusing
on differences, as humanity is so inclined to do. I’d love to see the
movements merge. It would be a clarifying act that would help
businesses–our customers–immensely.

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