Lean Mindset

This is my attempt to summarize the latest book by Mary and Tom Poppendieck with the same title, Lean Mindset. Needless to say its an awesome book, which presents a mental model on how to deliver amazing products that delight customers. The book explains the same with fantastic case studies, absorbing those will help us to develop the expertise to ask the right questions, solve the right problems and do the right thing depending on the situation at hand.

What is Lean Mindset

Lean is a Mindset — a mental model of how the world works. The book builds the mental model of how lean design and development should look and feel in order to foster a lean mindset in organizations. The case studies mentioned in the book should not be seen as just copying the practices, because it's about doing the right thing depending upon the context, by asking the right questions and identifying the right problems to solve.

The book also has dialogs by Otto and Anna, representing two modes of our thinking, i.e. System 1 — fast, instinctive and emotional thinking and System 2 — slow, deliberate and logical thinking. Otto and Anna are opinionated and asks challenging questions, which helps the readers to follow the concepts in the book. Every chapter also ends with ten questions, an exercise the reader should be doing.

System 1 and System 2 is a dichotomy presented in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman which describes the cognitive biases of both of these modes of thinking.

Sections of the book

The book talks about five important aspects every business need to focus for building products that make customers delighted. They are:

  • Purpose of the Business — Understand the customers that the business serves. As mentioned by Peter Drucker, start with the question, What business are we in?, which can be answered by asking another question Who are our customers?. The purpose of the business is to create a customer — discover a customer need and find a way to satisfy the need.
  • Energized workers — Create an atmosphere where the employees are challenged so that they are always on the path of expertise. This is based on the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Energized workers have a purpose which is bigger than the company and they strive to reach their full potential through challenging work that requires increasing skill and expertise.
  • Delighted Customers — Focus on building the right thing, highly focussing on the experience for the customers. Great products are built by teams that are able to empathize with the customers. Look beyond what customers have asked for, because there is very little likelihood of creating a product that customers love by following a given list of requirements.
  • Genuine Efficiency —Focus on the lean principles Optimize the whole, Build Quality In, Empower the team, Eliminate Waste which focuses on efficiency, the key factor for building the right product. The techniques such as Lean Startup, Continuous Delivery etc. would help us being more efficient.
  • Breakthrough Innovation — Every business is vulnerable, and can lose their major source of revenue seemingly overnight. So it's important for the business to develop breakthrough innovations instead of getting blindsided by someone else’s disruptive innovations.


As mentioned in the beginning, the book talks about a lot of things through case studies which can’t just be emulated, instead need to be analyzed and experimented at the right context. I am still absorbing the concepts in the book because “lean is a journey, not a destination”.

One major “aha” moment I had was clarity on how to create an environment for intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic motivation. By defining the purpose of the company, delighting customers and energizing team with challenging work an environment gets created for innovation.

At Multunus, we have started a couple of initiatives, keeping the above in mind.

  • We‘ve started measuring engagement of people using Gallup’s 12 questions, and it’s helping us understand and improve engagement of our people better.
  • We’ve started One on Ones [aka O3s] for everyone in the company for improving the relationship between employees and the so-called coaches/managers.
  • We’ve also started with OKRs across the company, which helps everyone to work towards the Objectives/Vision the company sets out.
  • We are starting with one day Investment time [inspired by Google’s 20% time or Thoughtbot’s Investment Time] across the company, which is an investment individuals makes to improve their skills through deliberate practice.
  • Lastly, as written in my previous post, we started measuring Customer Satisfaction, which helps us to continually improve the value we deliver to our customers.

Further Readings