The How of Lean Startup

So how many of you have actually read it? It’s been out for a good five years now. And, I have to confess to paying only lip service to it (or rolling my eyes at its adherents) until now.

Here’s the thing. It’s still quite good. Really good. There’s so much lovely nuance to it, too, that we don’t hear as much about. It is NOT landing page > MVP > pivot > profit. It does things like take parts of agile development to task. It’s more than what the buzzwords would have you believe and has so many great ideas that are still very different than how I see the vast majority of how startups make software.

But, here’s the other thing (and the reason why so few actually implement it). It’s hard.

It’s basically “eating your vegetables” for startups. Taking an experimental mindset instead of a “build it” mindset in all your actions is a very different habit than what is natural. And that’s the rub. At the core of Lean Startup is new business habit formation, and habit formation is just plain hard.

Which leads me to Lean Startup’s biggest failing at present. Lean Startup spends a great deal of time on the “what” to do, not the “how” to get yourself to do it. The “how” is a habit design problem. And fundamentally changing your design/development/business processes is not something to take lightly or think “I must do it all immediately, or I’m not doing it right!” With habit design, small steps every day toward the goal over periods of time are the only way to make it happen.

So, I’ve officially put Lean Startup in the same category as GTD… something that a lot of people find interesting (and others stop listening when the buzzword bingo gets so thick you can’t take it. Yes, that includes me.), something a lot of people try and give up on, and something that just takes time to develop your own habits through your own experimentation, one piece at a time until you look back and say, “Holy cow! I can’t believe how far I’ve come. This is amazing.”

GTD took me YEARS before I found a somewhat competent system for myself, and I suspect Lean Startup is going to take some time as well. But, the reason GTD took me so long is that it took me years to figure out how to design habits for myself. Once I did have a better system (Thank you Zen Habits!), it led to a massive amount of experimenting and progress. And I’m looking forward to seeing how habit design works with Lean Startup.

While I’m drawing down the number of Medium posts I make (maybe once a week or once a month… I’ve taken it out of my daily habits), I’ll have some future posts around how I’m building habits that help me build a more experimental business.

And also, for my own sanity, I’ll keep the buzzword bingo to a minimum.