Author: Eric Ries

After constantly hearing about lean startup ideas, methods in the startup world, and the recommendation from my colleagues, I read this book. If I have to sum up a few words on this book, here is what I would say, “with this book, the author Eric Ries makes an excellent attempt to introduce Toyota’s popular lean manufacturing principles into startup culture to make them build what is ideal by validated learning and build-measure-learn loop”.

Slow Start

I felt it is a bit verbose and boring to read a few chapters in the beginning. Some of the anecdotes seemed too long and unnecessary to explain in depth. The author’s tone is a bit professorial throughout the book, but you will get used to it and appreciate it as you go on. He anchors mainly on the lessons learned, bringing the product to success at IMVU, a 3D avatar social app, and how it helped to apply Toyota’s lean principles. Overall, the message at the end is certainly invaluable, especially in terms of preventing waste. At the core, the author emphasizes innovation should be managed, and Build-Measure-Learn should be a part of startup culture.

Build Measure Learn

The concept of Build-Measure-Learn was new to me, and I liked it. Especially, I liked the way Eric explains on page #76 that execution goes in the clockwise direction, and the planning goes in the anti-clockwise direction. You start with a Leap-of-Faith, a set of assumptions that you believe in, and test them as soon as possible without wasting time, resources,s and money. Achieve a ‘minimum viable product’ and see if you can get that hockey stick pattern in revenue. The author also highlights on types of metrics to be tracked in the section between page #114 to page #149. He strongly recommends product managers to avoid ‘vanity metrics’ and focus on ‘actionable metrics’. In my view, this is great advice because I could easily relate this to my own experience in the past.

Small Batches

Although I worked a lot in a “Kanban” setup for product development purposes, I was unsure about the underlying value based on the lean principles. After reading this book, it kind of shed some light and made me understand why we used Kanban. I was so thrilled to know what the Japanese did in order to compete with large automakers in the US and Europe using the simple technique of lean manufacturing. They were absolutely right. You produce only when there is a demand. Applying the same techniques to the software products, the author demonstrates how small-batch working techniques help reduce waste, and large-batch techniques lead to a death spiral. This was the idea behind the popular Scrum framework.

Waste

In the end, what struck me hard is that, WASTE. My definition of waste until I read this book was only limited to natural solid waste that we humans generate. Although I was aware of time, money, efforts get wasted often. I was not so concerned about that. I always that they more resultant of efforts that we put. But, if you look at it from a different angle, as Eric explains with an anecdote at the end, every failed product, process, or project is a humungous waste of human capabilities that could have been used for building something useful. It could have been avoided with proper planning, innovation accounting, and testing the needs as early as possible. He quotes a line from Peter Drucker in the end, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all”. This is so true. That’s why engineers at Toyota manufacturing adapted a pull technique from the dealer showroom to understand what is in demand.

I am a believer and a promoter of sustainable solutions. I think the time has come for everyone to take part and do whatever possible to reduce the waste we generate. Not every product is deemed to be produced if there is a way to recycle old products and use them just like new. In this aspect, this book is a must-read for those who are at the producer’s end. And, consumers should also help those producers in whatever way possible to build what is needed.

Here is the link to Good Reads for more information.

My Ratings:  5.0 out of 5.0 stars