Why a Lean Startup is hot and Lean Six Sigma is not

Disclaimer: I have participated in many of these threads and really are using them for a little twisted humor of mine. What Continuous Improvement Consultants are talking about:

  • One Lean group is arguing about whether to start with 5s or not. I mean seriously after we clean the floor what else is there?
  • A Six Sigma group is talking about if Six Sigma is a “Dead Duck.”
  • Numerous threads are talking about making manufacturing sexy – and I doubt if many of the commenters ever worked on a shop floor.
  • Six Sigma guys are still running around defending quality as it is the only thing that makes a difference.
  • The Theory of Constraint people are running around looking for a pile of material and identifying bottlenecks!
  • Everyone is still talking efficiencies and culture. And just an opinion, the reason that these platforms fail is not always leadership. These things have to be implementable and pay for themselves or their not worth doing.

What are the Lean Startup people doing? They go after the guys on the fringes and do you know what they find there…the change agents. The people that are willing to stick out their necks to make a difference. Take note, these people are not found in the core of your company, they are probably thinking about leaving it.

Lean Startups have made their position sexy? They have forged a new path, a new beginning and that attracts followers. I compliment Eric Ries of Lessons Learned, Steve Blank and the rest of crew. You want to know a secret about attracting people on the fringe, watch this short video on how it’s done:

I used this video several months ago about another subject but Derek Sivers correlation to what you need to get started was a great insight.  As mentioned, I believe you have to quit going to the core to find your change agents. They are not there. I highly recommend this book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion which gives you a great foundation on this subject. They talk about shaping the strategies that you may need and they use these five questions to test the robustness of what they call a shaping view:

  1. Does the view expressed a perspective regarding the long-term direction of a broad industry or market and highlight what is different in that view from the situation today?
  2. Does the view clearly identify attractive business opportunities that can focus the investment of a broad range of participants?
  3. Does the view to hide these opportunities explicitly to broad economic, cultural, and technological forces at work on the business landscape?
  4. Is the view broad enough to accommodate unexpected developments yet specific enough to provide focus and direction for executives faced with difficult choices?
  5. Had the view been aggressively and continuously communicated by senior management to employees and external audiences?

That seems a little wordy for me. I like the questions learned from the Lean Startup crowd, they seemed much easier:

  1. What problem are you solving for your customer?
  2. Does the customer know they have this problem?
  3. Are your customers actively trying to solve this problem?
  4. Do customers have a budget allocated to solve this problem or otherwise trying to spend money to solve it?
  5. Are your customers actively spending money, time or effort on solving this problem and failing?

Simplicity and a Crowd

Simplicity is still important. Just as Obama won the presidency on one word, Change. Eric Ries has embodied the Lean Start-up with the word, Pivot. Most consultants lose work for one simple reason: Clarity.

How simple is your explanation of what you do?

From Derek perspective leadership is oversold, it takes a crowd to create change. How many times have you made the effort to develop that crowd. How many times have you said people don’t get it. I do and how stupid am I for saying that: Real Stupid! Going back to the book, The Power of Pull talks about having a list of 50. I kind of like that thought. If you could sit down, right now and make a list of 50 people who share the same passion as you about a subject and collaborated with them to solve a customer’s(market) problem.

How effective would the outcome be?

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