Tuesday
Nov132012

On Being Lean...

Lean Is Easy, After It’s Not…

Once you have the answer to a difficult problem, you often wonder why you didn’t see the solution so much sooner. After learning to be "lean,” you are likely to wonder the same thing. The lean methodology, which facilitates early market experimentation, has its roots in manufacturing, process efficiency and earlier times in the digital world. 

In the era of room-filling mainframes, expensive cycle times and long compilations forced programmers to think through every permutation of what the user or businesses might possibly ever need before submitting the program. Programs had to be right the first time, or at least have minimal iterations.

The rise of the PC changed how systems were conceived and constructed by making computing time effectively free. Iterative incremental development became the favored development approach. Waterfall methodologies gave way to rapid application development. The introduction of the graphical user interface made programmers focus on quickly developing the screens, panels and windows users interacted with to get feedback frequently, before the system was completed. In this era, distribution was the bottleneck: shipping shrink-wrapped software was expensive and time consuming.

Now is the time to be lean. Planning methodologies provide a vocabulary for communications. Synchronizing business planning with technical implementation is critical. Much has been written about “Internet time” and the blink of an eye in which new ideas, concepts and even whole businesses can be created. The lean method captures the power of today’s computing capabilities and combines it with the drive for new innovation – business, technical and social. The lean approach to innovation became popular among startups, but it has just as much applicability across a range of company sizes, types and industries. To paraphrase Beth Comstock, CMO at GE, “Lean applies to jet engines as much as any other part of the business.” Today, it’s easy, cheap and quick to make minimum viable products (MVPs) available to customers to get their direct feedback as often as needed.

Lean methodologies facilitate communications and provide a means for validating, measuring and tracking market acceptability of new ideas. More and more people are pursuing innovative endeavors, creating a hypercompetitive marketplace. At the heart of being lean is the ability to rapidly test new hypotheses (guesses) about what your customer might want and be willing to pay for. 

At Lean Launch Ventures, we help startups, growth companies and large enterprises learn to think and act lean. Being lean is as much a culture as a methodology. We bring the collective experience of our founders and mentors to help find unobvious ways to innovation and clear business results. We are actively seeking applications from dynamic startups for the spring class. Interested companies can apply here: http://www.f6s.com/leanlaunchventuresspring2013. Growth and larger enterprises interested in outside input to innovation efforts can send inquires to info@LLVentures.co.

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