Lean Startups

5 Ways the 'Lean' Approach Can Help Your Startup Grow

5 Ways the 'Lean' Approach Can Help Your Startup Grow
Image credit: Bill Selak | Flickr
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You’ve got a great idea, secured investment and have taken your product to market. You may have even experienced early success. But before long, cracks appear: The numbers are heading in slightly the wrong direction and unnervingly, things aren’t working out quite the way you had so confidently predicted following that early eureka moment.

It’s surprising how many founders think that the first version of their product will also be the final one. In reality, further refinement is nearly always needed.

This happened to me too. In my case, adopting the "lean" approach was key. Discovering Eric Ries’ seminal book The Lean Startup changed my business development for the better, helping me to focus not just on building things, but on building the right things.

It can do the same for you. Here are a few tips.

Related: Why I Back Eric Ries Over Peter Thiel

1. Use evidence to unlock success.

The lean method moves beyond favourable opinions and towards gathering valuable, usable evidence.

Using it enabled us to truly observe the effects of our product, seeing it in action and recording exactly how it was being received externally. This approach allows you to measure what works and what doesn’t. As many businesses are now adept with using analytical tools and measurement systems this shouldn’t be daunting. Think of lean as a scientific method, with change grounded in data from behaviour, not whims.

2. Reprogramming your attitude to failure.

While I’m a big fan of Ries, I also share the success story of inventor Dr Norm Larsen to help others understand why we chose to go lean. Although he may not have realized it at the time, Larsen implemented a lean approach when he devised his most famous product: WD-40. Viewing his work as an experiment, he constantly adjusted and refined the product until satisfied, which is exactly what we do. You know why Larsen’s product is called WD-40? Because versions one to 39 all had failings.

We can learn a lot from Larsen’s persistence and approach. It shows how rethinking our attitude to failure can enable us to learn and adjust quickly, bringing us closer to success.

Related: How to Know If You're Really Running Lean

3. Climb aboard.

The lean approach involves the whole company, not just the C-suite. For it to work, everyone needs to be invested. I’ve found that once staff are signed up and have a sense of ownership and involvement, they will work with you to achieve tangible goals. It’s all about empowerment; Team members will work towards collective success based on their individual performance, not distant corporate objectives.

I strive to create an environment where people aren’t scared to try new things or speak up when they feel adjustments should be made. This approach has helped me create a culture of collaboration and innovation, which has invigorated the company across all departments and levels. 

4. Take a practical and philosophical approach.       

You might wonder how to maintain momentum when the business flourishes beyond the startup stage. Positive or negative, all business changes must be consistently addressed and managed. A key consideration of lean is that ultimately it’s a mindset. With the right care, attention and with the senior management team leading from the front, a lean culture can be maintained with scale and with confidence.

5. Take as much (or as little) from it as you want.

Remember, when it comes to going lean you can be a fan without being fanatical.

With the Ries model, we take from it what we need and tailor it to our business. Like all business approaches, nothing is set in stone. That’s the beauty of lean: It encourages constant analysis, adaptation and refinement.

It’s within the capabilities of your business to achieve success. If you value business or product development as a constant work in progress, the lean startup approach can give you the framework to help your business flourish. 

Related: How to Grow Your Company Lean