A colleague handed me a copy of The Startup Way (book website) by Eric Ries because it is being referenced more and more in the work she is doing - and the predecessor (Lean Startup) has been on my to-read list for some time. Even without reading the predecessor, Ries summarizes the main Lean Startup concepts - and many of the ideas are readily heard in popular media.
In essence, this book is about taking the Lean Startup concepts and applying them much more broadly - inside companies, non-profits, governments, and or even a lemonade stand. Most of the ideas and proposals in the book make a lot of sense, and it is useful for me to have them collected in this fashion. Where I have further questions, it is mostly a question of curiosity rather than thinking that something is “wrong” in the ideas presented.
Ries starts out with his basic idea of a startup, “A human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” And clearly, this kind of definition doesn’t preclude any kind of organization. It doesn’t have to be a couple of people in crowded into a shared apartment or their parents’ garage. As the book demonstrates, it can be people in all sorts of otherwise “well established” organizations.
I enjoyed the early conversation about uncertainty and the odd things organizations have created to try to manage uncertainty: forecasts (always wrong); short term focus but long “big bang” projects; ever-growing checklists and reviews… Uncertainty is all around. There must be ways to operate despite that fact. One of the best-knows aspects of the Lean Startup approach is the idea of doing the smallest, simplest experiments possible to test a hypothesis. And then learn, learn, learn. This is a very different approach to uncertainty. These experiments are fully expected to fail - if you don’t get failures, you are probably testing the wrong things. Failure of the experiment is a learning opportunity, and a guide that something in the assumptions or the hypothesis itself wasn’t right. Rethink (pivot) and experiment again.
The bulk of the book does what it says on the cover. It’s fairly easy to read and is peppered with plenty of examples from large organizations that have implemented these ideas and transformed into more modern, entrepreneurial companies. I might be interested to hear more about experiments that have been run at companies where it didn’t turn out so well, but then I suppose that has been built into the overall approach recommended in the book. (Sadly, at least one of success story companies, GE with FastWorks, isn’t doing too well - there’s an Inc.com article on the topic by Greg Satell, Has the Lean Startup Finally Jumped the Shark, that tries to give some perspective.)
The end of the book attempts to acknowledge that Lean Startup will likely be supplanted / absorbed / transformed as other concepts arise. Ries also suggests that there are many elements of the mindset that make a lot of sense and would be expected to remain in those future versions.