When we set out to improve something we use some sort of process. Many of us use PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) or a variation of it for incremental improvement. When we are looking at breakthrough improvement, you will find different schools of thoughts. My favorite is a variant of PDCA, which is called EDCA (Explore – Do – Check – Act (Learned from @GrahamHill)). Even Design Thinkers use some type of systematic approach that takes them through a process to deliver an outcome.
In entrepreneurial development, Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses uses a variant of PDCA that he calls Build – Measure – Learn. This iterative cycle continues as you search for a product market fit. If you cannot find product market fit, we are asked to Pivot. This is a term that has become immensely popular. The “Pivot” is defined in his book:
If the company is making good progress toward the ideal that means it’s learning appropriately and using that learning effectively, in which case it makes sense to continue. If not, the management team eventually must conclude that its current product strategy is flawed and needs a serious change. When a company pivots, it starts the process all over again, reestablishing a new baseline and then tuning the engine from there. The sign of a successful pivot is that these engine-tuning activities are more productive after the pivot than before.
The concept is wonderfully constructed and has captured the heart of the development community. It has also brought Lean to entirely different market segment that would have otherwise never had considered Lean as an alternative. I think it has sparked Lean out of the internal process thinking and into the external thinking of customer development. What Eric has done in his iterative cycle of Build –Measure – Learn is to create a pause with the “Learn” portion of the cycle. This may be the one missing ingredient that many of us experience in our improvement and development cycles.
In past blogs, I discuss using CAPD (Check – Act – Plan – Do) or CAP- Do as the beginning cycle for Lean Sales and Marketing. It was term popularized by many that were directly influenced by Dr. Deming, such as Brian Joiner and Yoji Akao. It has been somewhat lost in the present Lean nomenclature. Simply stated, it (Check) is listening or observing before acting. We could use such tools as SWOT or SOAR for instance to allow us to confirm our opinions and judgments.
I take a slightly different approach than many others when I interpret the Act or Adjust stage in CAPD. I view the A, not as a method to prepare for Plan but to connect with others to see divergent views, similar to the Learn Stage in the Lean Startup. Where C was about factual listening and measurement, A is about empathetic listening. It is where we look and listen through the eyes and ears of our customer before proceeding. It is not an easy process to accept different and often times opposing views. When considered, these views should not cause us to jump to “Pivoting” or making adjustments in the Plan stage of PDCA. Rather, it should cause us to PAUSE.
We are oftentimes in a rush to get through the Act (Adjust) stage. One of the secrets to Lean and foreign to many of us in Western Culture is the state of reflection or Hansei. Reflection needs to come before the Plan stage. As a child, I was always taught to Stop, Look, Listen. However, as time went on it seemed that those words were replaced with the Nike motto of “Just Do It.” Maybe, it is an age thing, but reflection or Hansei seems to be more important to me now. I believe it is what makes for a successful Plan stage. I think it is the missing ingredient in many of our iterative cycles. To test this is quite simple; ask yourself, can you accept divergent thoughts without reflection, without a PAUSE?
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