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The Lean Startup is a business book about how to start and grow a business in today’s economy. The author, Eric Ries, has worked in the technology industry for many years and has seen the changes that have taken place. He has also started and grown several businesses of his own. The Lean Startup is based on the principles of lean manufacturing, which was developed by Toyota in the 1950s.

Lean Startup and Team Management

Book Cover of The Lean Startup

While The Lean Startup is a famous book about managing a business, the principles are also applicable to managing high-performing teams – and fit very nicely into the OKR framework.

The biggest benefit of using the Lean Startup methodology is that it helps teams move quickly and efficiently towards their goals. By measuring progress and success, teams can rapidly iterate and find the optimal solution to any problem. In addition, the focus on constant improvement and experimentation fits well if you’re managing with OKRs. As long as a team is making progress towards its goals, it is on the right track.

So if you want to manage your team in a lean and mean way, applying the principles of The Lean Startup is a great place to start. Here are the five key takeaways to remember:

Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast

The first principle of the Lean Startup is Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast. This means that you should not try to do everything at once when solving a big problem or reaching for a “big, hairy, audacious” goal. Start small and grow your solution through iteration and validated data. You can scale your solution more quickly once you’ve validated the concept and the trajectory.

This philosophy is often applied in the context of technology startups, but it can be used in any type of solution development – including marketing initiatives. The goal is to reduce waste and increase efficiency by only pursuing the most promising options and rapidly adapting as new information arises.

Custom Solutions for Unique Problems

The second principle is that the methods of managing your team must be geared towards the context of the business and the unique objective – one size DOES NOT fit all. What works for one team or initiative may not work for another. As a manager, you need to be flexible and adapt your methods as needed.

The principles of the Lean Startup and the OKR framework support creative problem-solving to fit the specific context faced by each team. So, be sure to create an environment where people feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. The best way to encourage creativity and innovation is to lead by example. Be creative and show your team that taking risks is okay. Encourage them to come up with new ideas and praise them when they do something innovative.

Learn, Experiment, Improve

The Lean Startup Sprint Cycle starts with measuring and collecting data, learning from the data, building a solution, then measuring the sucess, learning from the data, and so on.
Source Medium

The third principle is that a culture of learning is an integral part of a successful team. You should always be learning new things and trying to improve your processes. This will help you reach your objectives faster and more effectively. It is especially important to focus on learning and experimentation in order to find the right initiative-solution fit.

Creating innovative solutions for unique problems requires a team that has been given the space to be creative – and is encouraged to think outside the box. It also means supporting a culture that is open to feedback and willing to course-correct when necessary. This environment allows a team to rapidly experiment, learn from their mistakes, and improve their processes.

The cycle of learning, experimentation, and improvement is essential for any team that wants to be successful in the long run. By constantly learning and trying new things, you can keep your team ahead of the curve and ensure that you’re always making the best decisions to reach the goal.

Measure What Matters…Beyond Finance

The fourth principle is that accounting for success can’t just be financial-based. You’ve got to have an eye on “the boring stuff” like how to measure progress, how to set up milestones, and how to prioritize work. This means that you need to track more than just the dollars and cents of your solution initiatives. Measuring the efficiency of solution creation, iteration, and implementation is just as important for the organization’s long-term success.

Measure what matters to your team success – the metrics that celebrate creativity, efficiency, and optimization of the process. Doing so will help you build a high-performing team that is always learning and progressing. So don’t just focus on the bottom line when it comes to your team’s success. Consider all the factors that make a great team…and measure accordingly!

“Viable” is the Key to Success

diagram showing the intersection of minimum solutions and viable solutions. Where the two forms overlap is called the "launch and test solution"
Inspired by Start-up Shelter

The fifth principle is to build your minimum viable solution (MVS) and then build your big campaigns around this validated MVS – scaling, tweaking, and tuning as you go. Launch an idea first, measure the initiative’s success on the Key Metrics, then learn and refine. This means focusing on creating a solution that requires the minimum of resources while still being VIABLE to drive a positive result. If the “minimum” version of the solution is trending towards success, then you can scale the solution bigger and bigger.

But if the “minimum” solution is not viable, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Don’t waste time and resources on a solution that will never work. Better to know early on and course correct than to keep throwing good money after bad. So always remember: Viability is the minimum acceptable standard. If the solution is not viable, then it should not be tested.

What’s the minimum viable solution for our goal? How can we validate it quickly and cheaply? Keep these questions at the top of your team’s mind you’ll be well on your way to building successful solutions that get results.

Wrap Up

By using the Lean Startup principles, you can optimize your team for success. Applying these five concepts will help you think big, start small, and scale fast while creating custom solutions for unique problems. Remember to cultivate a culture that prioritizes learning, experimenting, and improvement and that measures success beyond the financials will pay dividends as your team moves into future challenges. Most importantly, ensure that viability is the minimum standard for launch – this is critical in order to create a scalable solution.

How do you use the Lean Startup principles in your own organization? Let me know in the comments below!