Lean Startup Machine Weekend Wrap-Up

First, our project update: the first leg of our excellent adventure ends today. We validated a few core assumptions - thanks to those of you who volunteered to play with our questions and get on the phone with us for follow up questions. It's hard to say at this point where we are going, we have a few more dozen experiments to run. The general theme and direction is geared around a core lean principle: flow. I'm curious what you think about the following questions?

  • What interrupts the skill development of your people?

  • What do you need to speed up how you develop their skills?

  • Do you see the use of mobile technologies playing a core part in that development pathway?


Second, a brief review of Lean Startup Machine Weekend. Mark sketched out a Job Breakdown Sheet which we will share as an update later in the week. The event is very similar to a kaizen event: activities are biased for action. The primary objective is to save yourself some grief and heartache by breaking up with your ideas before you fall in love with them. I can see this methodology being used with product development teams or voice of customer exercises.

One unique trait of LSM is that once an experiment is created -you "get out of the building" immediately - we know this as go and see. The big difference is that kaizen events test multiple experiments simultaneously - "let's move 12 machines around" instead of moving 1. One could argue that LSM has a better experimental approach than those used in kaizen blitzes...improvement batch reduction has benefits: easier to get done, easier to evaluate effects, easier to adjust if changes are needed. This also happens to be more aligned with small kaizen and Job Methods approach. I found this to be a very solid feature of the approach that throws people right into discovery mode.

My big concern about LSM is the Lean brand associated with it. Those of us that have been around a while have seen this before. In this case the young people are extremely enthusiastic about Lean, as they understand it today. Unfortunately, that understanding is only of the outcomes of Lean, faster, cheaper, better. They only see and are taught, the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the surface is what supports the things they are seeing above.

The big benefit here is that this approach can help you reduce risk: shorter development cycles, less cycle cost, real feedback, kill your ideas early.

Well, not so fast. LSM is pretty cool, and I found it to be a fun exercise. But it is a couple of pieces of a bigger puzzle. The shortcomings? As results begin to breakdown later, because basic structures and habits do not exist...these young followers may become disillusioned with "Lean"...and LSM is just another fad thrown onto the scrap heap. This has happened to a bunch of other disciplines preceded with the "Lean" moniker - and it is one I caution the LSM team to watch out for. I'm skeptical that "Lean Startup" will survive, as this has a faddish, Rock Star, feel to it. The next year will be interesting to watch where this "movement", as one starry eyed follower puts it, takes hold.

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