5 Reasons You’re Failing at Lean Startup Methodology ft. Notion Data (@UseNotion)
Most startups fail — that’s the premise of The Lean Startup, its methodology and analytics. It’s all about setting up your startup for success by waiting to build until you know exactly what your customers need and will pay for, and then embarking on a journey of data-driven improvements.
All the while, you’re investing as little as possible to learn the most possible, making the iffy, insecure world of startup entrepreneurship a little more sure, a little more stable.
It’s no wonder that startup founders have taken notice. Something that lowers risk and improves the ultimate product? ‘Where do I sign up?’ — right?
But here’s what few people are willing to tell you: A lot of startups also fail at adopting Lean Startup methodology and there are a few reasons why.
As an improvement-minded founder, you’ve likely implemented optimizations in the past, maybe a lot of them. And, as soon as they disappoint (or you lose interest), your employees go back to business as usual. If going “Lean” is just the latest in a series of attempted improvements, you won’t get the employee & management buy-in you need to really make a go of it. You have to commit to changing the very foundations of how you approach business, and prove to your employees you’re serious by sticking with it.
The Lean Startup methodology is very much a top-down movement, and if the people at the top don’t get it (or don’t want to get it), nobody else will either. You need everyone on board with the idea that this is the only way to do business in today’s modern, ever-changing market. This means implementing processes and systems that reinforce Lean methodology at every level and using Lean analytics to measure your progress. Build, measure, learn needs to be ingrained in your company DNA, not just an idea some team members reference on occasion.
Finding this post helpful? Want to keep learning? Get the School of Little Data delivered right to your inbox.
So much of successfully going Lean is dependent on clear communication. You have to explain, in a compelling way, why you’re adopting Lean methodology to every single employee, not just the top brass. You have to listen to your employees’ doubts, concerns and feedback, and iterate accordingly. And once you begin obtaining data, you need to use Lean analytics to share it (again, with everyone, not just the top brass), and foster an environment of collaboration based on it.
A breakdown in communication in any of these areas will disengage your workforce from your goals, and you’ll never make it to Lean. Having a Lean analytics platform like Notion that lets everyone see all of the product data, customer feedback, and team performance metrics in one place can go a long way towards fostering communication and engagement.
One part of the Lean startup philosophy that doesn’t get as much attention is the Respect for People aspect, which includes fostering open communication, but also empowering your people to constantly learn and improve, and giving them opportunities to grow. For example, empower your employees to track their own performance in a Lean analytics platform, so they can measure and learn from their own work. Also enable them to get additional training or education to fill critical gaps and expand where they’re already strong. If you expect your employees to drive continuous improvement, you have to create an environment conducive to learning. Most companies are only interested in whether their employees fulfill their quotas and get the assigned work done — very few reward employees for taking time to widen their knowledge bases.
Unless you’re a very unusual leader, your troops won’t follow you blindly. But that’s exactly what many founders and CEOs expect — to decree “We’re going Lean” and receive wildly enthusiastic applause. The step that they often miss once again is communication — helping each employee understand the need for Lean, the value they can get from Lean, and how they (not just you) stand to benefit from adopting Lean practices. If you try to implement Lean without giving them strong, valid reasons for changing the way they do everything, you, Captain Bligh, could face mutiny.
Commit, communicate, listen, respect and convince — once you have those steps down, you’ll not only become Lean Startup masters, you’ll become an even better leader than you were before.