1: We know what to do when someone says, “Drive to the grocery store.” Our “hands seem to steer us there on our own accord,” writes Eric Ries in The Lean Startup.

We use constant feedback to turn the steering wheel. “This feedback is so immediate and automatic that we often don’t think about it, but it is steering that differentiates driving from most other forms of transportation.”

Launching a rocket ship is different. “It must be launched with the most precise instructions on what to do: every thrust, every firing of a booster, and every change in direction. The tiniest error at the point of launch could yield catastrophic results thousands of miles later.”

So what does all of this have to do with successfully launching a new business?

“Unfortunately, too many startup business plans look more like they are planning to launch a rocket ship than drive a car,” Eric observes. “They prescribe the steps to take and the results to expect in excruciating detail.”

The problem? “Even tiny errors in assumptions can lead to catastrophic outcomes,” he writes.

What if we build something that nobody wants to buy? “In that case what did it matter if we did it on time and on budget?”

2: There is a better way. The Lean Startup methodology is similar to driving a car. We don’t make complex plans based on a multitude of assumptions. Instead, we plan on making constant adjustments based on the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

“The goal of a start-up is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible,” Eric notes. “The Lean Startup is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight, a huge vision, and great ambition, all at the same time.”

The underlying strategy? “Every new version of a product, every new feature, and every new marketing program is an attempt to improve this engine of growth,” he writes.

Entrepreneurs plan for their products to change through optimization. “Tuning the engine,” Eric calls it. “Much of the time in a start-up’s life is spent tuning the engine by making improvements in product, marketing, or operations.”

The Lean Startup methodology includes “a business model, a product road map, a point of view about partners and competitors, and ideas about who the customer will be,” Eric writes. “The product is the end result of this strategy.”

And we always have a clear idea of where we are headed. In some instances, we may need to pivot or change our strategy. However, the overarching vision of creating a thriving business never changes. Entrepreneurs are committed to seeing the startup through to that destination.

Once we have our start-up engine “revved up,” we can then scale and grow the business with maximum acceleration.

3: This approach differs significantly from the standard business framework, which involves market research, a clear plan, and a solid strategy. “Failure to deliver results is due to either a failure to plan adequately or a failure to execute properly,” Eric notes.

“Both are significant lapses, yet new product development in our modern economy routinely requires exactly this kind of failure on the way to greatness.”
The Lean Startup methodology differentiates between “learning” and what Eric calls “Validated Learning.”

“Unfortunately, “learning” is the oldest excuse in the book for a failure of execution,” writes Eric. “It’s what managers fall back on when they fail to achieve the results we promised.”

But learning by itself does not lead to success. “Is it any wonder that learning has a bad name in entrepreneurial and managerial circles?” Eric asks.

Validated learning is different. It is a rigorous process of demonstrating progress. It’s not “an after-the-fact rationalization or a good story designed to hide failure,” he writes. It is about “discovering valuable truths about a start-up’s present and future business prospects.”

Validated learning also requires a different type of organizational structure. We don’t organize our company into strict functional departments like marketing, sales, and IT. Instead, we build cross-functional teams and hold them accountable for learning milestones.

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Think back on a time when I was trying to create or launch something new. How accurate were my assumptions? How might I utilize Eric’s approach described above?

Action: Journal about the experience and what I learned.

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