Lean and Why It Matters
A couple of days back I said in 2013 people will begin to refocus on innovation, and lean is the reason why. Lean principles are a perfect match to every enterprise’s dilemma: creating more products, for more niches, at a faster lick and lower cost, a topic covered in The Elastic Enterprise.
Though we may think of it as a start-up phenomenon, the lean movement reaches deep into the enterprise. In recent interviews I’ve heard lean start-up principles articulated by companies as large as AT&T and Nokia Siemens Networks. At the same time I’ve heard the pressure to do lean processes from companies like The Washington Post and National Geographic.
In February Wiley will publish The Lean Entrepreneur, a book that takes lean into the enterprise in a step-wise process. I got talking to Patrick and Brant, the authors yesterday (take a look at their webs site – I’ll write about it later).
There are two drivers of lean principles apart from the obvious one – competitiveness.
Lean has given enterprises, which have already shaved back on costs, a new language for motivating people to get creative on limited resources.
But there’s also the big fear. Companies see dozens of start-ups each year taking aim at them. Most can be laughed off, but one of them is going to hurt, perhaps terminally.
Lean is appealing, then, to people in enterprise settings, particularly those who already take responsibility for agile processes.
According to Brant and Patrick, however, even the owner of agile realizes their organization is not changing fast enough. That’s where lean comes in. But companies are also typically doing agile wrongly.
A problem for companies with agile processes is also under-resourcing. They know they must go out and interview potential customers in order to build the use-cases that make for good product but there’s no time or budget for that. So personnas and use cases are made up. The lack of engagement created by taking short cuts only become apparent when a product hits the market.
Brant and Patrick’s book is an attempt to bring discipline into that. It looks at innovation as a continuum from, on one end, disruptive to, on the other “sustaining” (see the image below). Companies need to locate where on this spectrum their innovation needs’ lie. Then there are three steps:
#1. Interacting with customers and segmenting the markets in a non-demographic way, focusing on shared pain.
#2. Creating purpose-built experiments, e.g. releasing prototypes, to de-risk the market.
#3. Creating data that is a genuine measure of your engagement with the market.
There’s more to it , of course. That’s why they wrote the book – and the book itself is an interaction with the start-up and enterprise community.
The unmentioned element of this is where we will find enough people with the creative spirit to do more, cheaper, faster. That’s something I’ll come on to in a series of posts about being creative.