The Lean Startup Book Review

By: Agile Velocity | Jan 11, 2013 |  Article,  Leadership

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is without a doubt one of the better entrepreneurial books I have read.  The book claims to explain “how today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses.”  The author’s writing is easy to follow, and he uses a lot of real-life examples to help drive his points.   On one hand, I look back and say much of this is common sense…of course that is what you should do, but on the other hand I feel this book is somewhat game-changing as Ries has simplified some powerful techniques explaining how to cut through uncertainty plaguing many start-ups and hindering innovation at existing companies.

First, Ries explains that entrepreneurs are everywhere and defines that the model is not limited to actual start-up companies, but can be applied to any business.

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The foundation of the book is to use the “Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop” to help steer your startup.  While the concept is not exactly new, he does provide interesting insight into what he calls innovation accounting to measure progress and how many metrics can be categorized as “vanity” rather than “actionable.”  And finally, Ries explores techniques for accelerating the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop even as it scales.

Here are additional quotes I enjoyed:

The MVP is that version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time.

As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.

A startup’s job is to (1) rigorously measure where it is right now, confronting the hard truths that assessment reveals, and then (2) devise experiments to learn how to move the real numbers closer to the ideal reflected in the business plan.

As they say in systems theory, that which optimizes one part of the system necessarily undermines the system as a whole.

Validated was defined as “knowing whether the story was a good idea to have been done in the first place.”

A pivot requires that we keep one foot rooted in what we’ve learned so far, while making a fundamental change in strategy in order to seek even greater validated learning.

Every entrepreneur eventually faces an overriding challenge in developing a successful product: deciding when to pivot and when to persevere.

The more money, time, and creative energy that has been sunk into an idea, the harder it is to pivot.

Failure is a prerequisite to learning.

Small batches pose a challenge to managers steeped in traditional notions of productivity and progress, because they believe that functional specialization is more efficient for expert workers.

When I work with product managers and designers in companies that use large batches, I often discover that they have to redo their work five or six times for every release.

As an agile practitioner, much of the book is validation of the learning and course correction ingrained through years of practice.  While you will find very insightful information on how to measure and learn through reading this book, I believe it’s worth a caution that applying the techniques in this book are much harder while you are the one performing the execution of tasks.  In my experience, it is much tougher to be as objective as necessary without some help from an outside party to help validate results and lessons of your experiments.  I will end with one final quote on this note:

“Organizations have muscle memory,” and it is hard for people to unlearn old habits.

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