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Lean startups find their moment (venturehacks.com)
30 points by nivi on Oct 21, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

The question in my mind against most of these efficiency driven programs is simple. If you're always looking to eliminate waste and become super efficient, you're not spending any time being creative or chasing radical ideas that may or may not be worth the effort spent on executing them.

Innovation sometimes requires a lot of wasteful experimentation and it looks like that is completely anti-thetical to the whole efficiency argument.

Efficiency is a by-product of removing waste. It isn't the goal. Who can argue against eliminating waste? =)

The next step is learning to see waste. And chasing radical ideas is not necessarily waste. Experimentation is not necessarily waste.

Toyota employs something called "set-based product development" where they develop multiple versions of a product at once. Talk about "wasteful experimentation."

Imagine developing three versions of a web site in Prototype, JQuery, and Flash -- all at the same time.

nivi, is there a free online canonical source of Toyota's lean system, and if so, can you link to it?

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_production_system

But I think it is easier to learn Extreme Programming first because TPS is somewhat abstract. XP is very concrete. Check out Kent Beck's Extreme Programming Explained.

I want to second this idea - Kent Beck is the best place to start. If you find XP too preachy, take a look at his Test-Driven Development: By Example.

You might also try the Lean Software Institute: http://www.leansoftwareinstitute.com/

For those of you willing to pay for a canonical source on Toyota's philosophy, I heartily recommend The Toyota Way:


It is much, much more than a 'lean system', although one of their major goals is to eliminate waste.

I'm also big fan of their 'go and see for yourself' (genchi genbutsu) philosophy.

I wonder if you can have the best of both worlds by spending 80% of your time on efficiently making money, and 20% on experimenting wastefully? (The split isn't as important as the idea).

That's an interesting idea but it's hard to evolve a culture of superefficient mindbots (a la Toyota's conveyer belt workers) and crazy hackers with no interest in money.

3M struggled with this as well: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_24/b4038406....

That is a good idea. Slack (a.k.a. 20% time) is built into lean. Why? Because running at 100% leads to waste... if you don't have slack, you increase your cycle time and you end up sub-optimizing the whole system.

I took a stab at answering this question here: http://startuplessonslearned.blogspot.com/2008/10/lean-start...

Good point: "But statups require a special kind of creativity: disruptive innovation. And, as the commenter rightly points out, this is not really a matter of efficiency. By the standard of "customer value," most innovation-seeking experiments are waste. Lean startups operate by a different standard."

When I proposed this kind of approach on a UK/US corporation I was waved away due to alleged unnecessary optimizations and lack of focus. Every little project tended to get over six figures a year just in support and licensing, any decision agreed in the countless meetings was carved in stone.

Many big US corporations can't survive this crisis because they have a systemic culture problem. Corporate behavior is very hard to change at that size. Truly lean approach requires maturity. These corporations only seem understand as a lean approach to simply reduce the workforce.

Neat observations. I wonder how one can become more effective at understanding which features customers won't want. I guess focus groups are one answer, but the danger with these is that your product's desirability may be limited to a local maximum. Further, it seems that the most desirable, iconic products rarely come from focus groups.

Yes that is what I took away. I think the article was highlighting the get it out and often mentality. Like a build early and often type of iterative approach rather than work on things you think the customer might want without some experimentation with the product/market insight.

see also Eric's blog who begun a series about lean startups.

if remember well, he started here http://startuplessonslearned.blogspot.com/2008/09/lean-start...

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