The Lean Paradigm

Sometimes while working on one theme one gets fascinated with something else that is related and interesting. This is exactly what happened when I started working on the product development blog Ace up Your Sleeve. I came across several references on lean startup methodology that caught my fancy and the outcome is this blog on lean startup methodology in product development.

There’s something about taking a plow and breaking new ground. It gives you energy. Ken Kesey

Ever thought of implementing lean in your startup? In 2008, Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, pioneered the lean startup movement. You may have already deduced that the lean startup methodology is modeled on the lean manufacturing philosophy and can be adopted by anyone who wants to launch a new product or service in the market. By espousing the lean startup methodology, you can avoid extensive fund requirements and complex business plans with a product that may not be perfect but at the same time gives you a better chance to succeed in the market.

What have we learned from earlier startups using conventional methods?
*Elaborate business plans do not work. Some of the heroes of today’s would-be entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell did not have business plans in hand when they embarked on ventures that changed the world.
*Operating in stealth mode is an obsolete practice.
*Attempting to build the perfect product is a short-cut to failure.

The lean startup approach gives you a tool to help create and manage your startup to be able to market your product faster. The lean startup methodology further advocates that you first come out with a product that works for your customer. You can spend time and effort later to fine-tune the product based on the feedback of the customer.

The reality is the Lean Startup method is not about cost, it is about speed. Lean startups waste less money, because they use a disciplined approach to testing new products and ideas.Eric Ries

According to Eric Ries, the lean startup methodology can support you in many different ways.

First is the creation of a process for product development. When we think of lean the first thing that comes to mind is spending less money to create something very fast. Lean is also about putting a method to the madness especially in the case of startups with their load of uncertainties.

The lean startup methodology helps an entrepreneur during the initial period when ideas are being tried out. You then share this with some prospective customers and capture their reactions to evaluate the potential of the idea. This feedback will indicate if a product should be built and whether it is a viable option. If the idea is successful, you can persevere and go in for further iterations to build an improved product. In case the responses are not encouraging, you can pivot and experiment with other ideas.

It advocates the adoption of the build-measure-learn feedback loop. You begin with identifying a problem then building a minimum viable product (MVP) to solve the problem. With the MVP in place you begin measurements and quickly get into the learning process and build-in enhancements in the MVP as you go along.

The success of any business, startup or other, is measured by the quality of its products or services. Within the uncertainty of your startup you can show progress by following a well established process, or as Eric Ries terms it “validated learning”.

As an entrepreneur it is important for you to be familiar with the five principles that guide the lean startup methodology.
1. You will find entrepreneurs everywhere.
2. All businesses need to be managed.
3. Build a sustainable business through validated learning.
4. Accountability must be imposed for better results with Innovation accounting.
5. Adopt the feedback loop of build-measure-learn.

The lean startup methodology has changed the way companies are being shaped today. Most of the successes of startups can be rightfully attributed to this innovative practice. The widespread use is testimony to the benefits that entrepreneurs like you look to derive and jump-start your business. It is only logical that we should also look at the flip-side of the story.

The Lean Startup has evolved into a movement that is having a significant impact on how companies are built, funded and scaled. Eric Ries

The lean startup approach has been successfully adopted by many entrepreneurs leading to its rampant acceptance around the world. Many of these entrepreneurs feel qualified to share their stories and provide guidance to future entrepreneurs by repackaging and oversimplifying the methodology according to their own experiences, which may or may not work for you. The concept of developing an MVP poses a risk of its own, as you may ignore the minimum level of quality to make customers want to buy your product. You can build a car that will successfully take a person from one place to another. How many buyers will you get if your car does not have the basic safety features? In an attempt to eliminate wasteful practices and uncertainty you may end up tweaking an existing product to create your own speedily and with minimum effort, effectively throwing creativity out of the back door. Prime examples of lean startup successes are Facebook, YouTube and PayPal amongst others.

What you should do is to acquire a thorough understanding of the methodology and adopt the approach that best fits your business model. At the same time do not compromise on your vision and objectives in building your business.


1. Wikipedia. Lean startup.
2. Steve Blank. Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. 2013.
4. The 5 principles of lean startup. 2015.
5. Natasha Hussein. What’s wrong with the lean startup methodology?. 2015.
6. Eric Ries. Creating the Lean Startup.
7. Nicholas Thomas. 11 Startups That Found Success By Changing Direction. 2011.