Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works (Lean Series) ハードカバー – 2012/3/9
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We live in an age of unparalleled opportunity for innovation. We’re building more products than ever before, but most of them fail—not because we can’t complete what we set out to build, but because we waste time, money, and effort building the wrong product.
What we need is a systematic process for quickly vetting product ideas and raising our odds of success. That’s the promise of Running Lean.
In this inspiring book, Ash Maurya takes you through an exacting strategy for achieving a "product/market fit" for your fledgling venture, based on his own experience in building a wide array of products from high-tech to no-tech. Throughout, he builds on the ideas and concepts of several innovative methodologies, including the Lean Startup, Customer Development, and bootstrapping.
Running Lean is an ideal tool for business managers, CEOs, small business owners, developers and programmers, and anyone who’s interested in starting a business project.
- Find a problem worth solving, then define a solution
- Engage your customers throughout the development cycle
- Continually test your product with smaller, faster iterations
- Build a feature, measure customer response, and verify/refute the idea
- Know when to "pivot" by changing your plan’s course
- Maximize your efforts for speed, learning, and focus
- Learn the ideal time to raise your "big round" of funding
Presented by Eric Ries—bestselling author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses—The Lean Series gives you solid footing in a proven methodology that will help your business succeed.
Ash Maurya is the founder of USERcycle. Since bootstrapping his last company seven years ago, he has launched five products and one peer-to-web application framework. Throughout this time he has been in search of better, faster ways for building successful products. Ash has more recently been rigorously applying Customer Development and Lean Startup techniques to his products.
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At a high-level, the Running Lean framework is fairly straightforward: validate the problem. Define a solution. Validate the solution. Then develop your solution iteratively while continuing to test and validate along the way. Running Lean offers concrete, actionable instructions and templates for each step of this process.
However, the greatest flaw in this book is hinted in the language of the author's promise. Running Lean is designed more like an algorithm -- painfully detailed, comprehensive, and unemotional -- than a practical field guide for the real world. The book delves into everything from landing page design to kanban boards. In other words, in its attempt at engineering a comprehensive framework for business creation, Running Lean fails to deliver a strong set of core principles (I will revisit this later in my summary).
Another problem I have with the author's promise is that the word "metrics" is mentioned twice, when in actuality Running Lean incorporates very few metrics. In fact, it's not until the very last stage of that actual numbers are even mentioned (eg. Sean Ellis test, 40% customer retention). I found incongruence in the fact that Running Lean was characterized as algorithmic, but was largely based on qualitative experiments without discussion of potential quantitative benchmarks or test methodologies.
Since *Running Lean* is considered the de-facto field manual for Lean Startup methodology, I was eager to read it and compare it to Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation, which I had read previously.
At a high level, NISI and Running Lean prescribe very similar methodologies. However, where Running Lean stumbles, NISI's shines. NISI's focus on simplicity makes it far more powerful and practical. For example, as a first step, NISI focuses _only_ on pain whereas Running Lean starts off with a lean canvas, which forces you to simultaneously consider other parts of the business model. NISI's "less is more" approach proves more effective, because as formulaic and well-engineered as Running Lean tries to be, the reality is that starting a company is stressful and unpredictable.
Another example of unnecessary complexity is useless jargon like "iteration meta-pattern" and "build-measure-learn loop", as well as tangential topics like usability testing, Kanban boards or an annoyingly complex definition of risk: "the way you quantify risk in your business model is by quantifying the probabilities of a specific outcome along with quantifying the associated loss if you're wrong." As a result of its complexity, the milestones in Running Lean are less concrete and powerful than NISI. NISI does a better job painting a holistic picture of common entrepreneurial fallacies, and how to breakthrough them by focusing on the most important goal -- acquiring payed customers.
I also want to highlight two methodological differences between NISI and Running Lean:
1) NISI gets you in front of customers faster. The Lean Canvas is simple, but it seems like the entire exercise should hinge on the customer pain being validated first. That gets entrepreneurs in front of customers faster, which in turn helps save time and wasted energy on the subsequent steps.
2) NISI recommends an objective, quantitative testing method for initially validating the customer pain, whereas Running Lean uses customer interviews. I would argue that as a whole, NISI approaches the startup process more objectively while Running Lean bases it on customer interviews.
Overall, I believe Running Lean is a worthwhile complement to NISI in bits and pieces. Specifically, I found its structured customer interview templates, advice on establishing pricing, and mention of the "Sean Ellis Test" to be valuable and actionable.
In terms of business and start-ups, the underlying theme to me was that you should try not to assume that you're correct - instead create small tests where you roll out an idea in small increments and test them before advancing. In some respect, it sounds like so much common sense, but how often do we fail to do this.
Old school business involves creating grandiose business plans that are complete and researched/analyzed using a ton of time. However, encapsulated within that is a lot of assumptions. How do you know such and such will happen? How do you know that customer feedback won't take you in a completely different direction? How can you possibly plan for that alternate direction if you haven't received enough feedback yet?
It's difficult predict what people will value, and how much they will value it until they actually have to pay for it (or at least use it). So how do you get to the point where you know exactly how much a customer will value your product/service with the least amount of waste? Are you being flexible enough to allow a 180 degree turn if you find that the customer will value something else than you originally planned for (and that you have the expertise to do)?
One important point Maurya makes early on is that money is not the only form of waste. Just as important are things like your time and energy. Why spend time and energy on things that won't add value?
The book gives you steps on how to incrementally roll out your idea and constantly test it as you go, down to the level of who you should be getting feedback from, how much time to spend interviewing them, and what questions to ask them.
In short, the book is insightful and brings one up to speed with the ever changing sense of urgency with which new s/w products releases need to be managed to maximize limited resources and efficacy - how to qualify if a product/business addresses a real customer need, given that actually building new apps or s/w is extremely easy with today's build tools and cost effective outsourcing. It presents a structured approach to covering all the bases in a logical and systematic manner to achieving one's goal.
A must read for anyone thinking of creating a new product/business for the first time - and recommend it to professionals needing to come up to speed with the times in s/w product/business releases.
The idea of systematically de-risking your business idea is a powerful way to get up and running with the smallest amount of money possible. If you have a business idea but you're not sure whether it's viable, Ash will give you a step by step plan for bringing it from the canvas to making money.
As another positive, the author seems to genuinely be interested in engaging with people who read the book. If this book doesn't answer a question you have, you could probably ask him. That's pretty good value for a book.