Not long ago, I considered the “Lean Startup”
a bit of a fad, and author Eric Ries a poster boy of the deeply fashionable
IT startup movement. I’m cynically wary of populism and what the majority
wants so I stayed away. But recently facing the job market again has
encouraged me to think (yet again) about what I can and want to do, and the
book needed to be read, if for no other reason than for topical discussion
in networking coffees and interviews.
On a slightly less cynical note, I am indeed a long-standing if sometimes
cautious advocate of agile approaches to delivering software, and
enthusiastic about the extensions to lean, Kanban, and systems theory. But
I’m no spring chicken hotshot developer either, so my skills and experience
are best served in exploring the enterprise–software boundary, using my
diverse if not generalist technology experiences. Still, like many others,
I am intrigued and impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the (mostly
web 2.0) startup movement, so I made my A$9.99 Kindle purchase of “The Lean
Startup” and began.
The book has been on the one hand a resonant experience. The ideas have
reinforced my agile inclinations, even outside software, my engineering
mindset, and above all confirmed that we live in an uncertain world, where
any dogmatic view or strategy is suspicious until tested. And on the other
hand it has been a surprise because it speaks to me less about startups
than reigniting agility and innovation in existing enterprises of any size.
It’s about taking a more humble approach to markets and customers, and
elevating learning to a primary activity for everyone in an organisation.
For that reason, I’m recommending it to just about everyone I’ve talked to
lately in the IT business, as an approach to engaging both their customers
better, and also their own organisations and their colleagues. Like big-A
agile, it’s a framework of principles and suggestions, not a recipe, so it
needs individual thought and adaptation, but it’s been the most
thought-provoking book I’ve read all year.