Seldom a bok is really worth reading in one sitting, but this time I was captivated and had enough time on a long flight to dig in cover to cover. Eric Ries tells a compelling story of running startups according to a structured methodology, based on Lean thinking and the philosophy of the Toyota Production System.
As I have experienced lean both in the automotive industry flavor and the software style called agile, I could identify with many of the situations and observations in the case studies in the book. However, this is the first time I see someone applying the principles to the organizationally uncertain environment of a startup. And Ries is very convincing.
In the last years, starting a greenfield R&D operation, I have encountered countless situations where the conventional metrics of success seem counterproductive and odd. In Lean Startup, some of these situations are included as examples of dilemmae facing the entrepreneur. I have felt oddly dissatisfied with our output, since I have had no tools to measure the progress, only admitting to myself that the positive picture of my department is more based on faith than on facts.
Ries also gives me words to formulate how the corporate standardized waterfall model of product development is disfunctional in a quickly changing environment. The obvious Build-Measure-Learn-cycle is now one year, instead of possibly a month or a week. We still operate with the assumption that the customers can explicitly state exactly what they want and that it is our job to make the optimal product matching these requirements. I will come back in another post why this is a flawed starting point.
The book is an easy read, and the key points come across clearly and vividly. The first-hand experience of Ries, and the way he shares his own failures with wit and self-depreciation add to the credibility to the story. The weakest part of the book is when Ries proclaims himself as the philosophical leader of a new industrial thinking revolution, which is probably an exaggeration.
Magnus Enarsson, thank you for pointing this book. It is inspiring and I am convinced that we will develop ways to work smarter!