Financial Times Features “Lean Startup” Ideas That “Work for All”?


It was nice to read a recent Financial Times article featuring the concept of “Lean Startups” (“Lean start-up thinking that works for all“) and Eric Ries, who I'll be interviewing soon for my LeanBlog podcast series.

FT highlights “Lean” as a thought process, philosophy, and management system while also dispelling some of the myths that might also be attributed to Lean in other settings, including healthcare and manufacturing.

From the article:

At the core of Toyota's philosophy is the idea of “lean” processes. The term is often misunderstood to mean cheap. In fact, a lean production system is one in which every step of every process is transparent and considered ripe for improvement. Thinking lean is about constantly measuring all you do, and being able to change quickly as fresh evidence emerges.

I'm especially appreciative that Eric often tries to emphasis that Lean doesn't equal “cheap.”

Ries and the Lean Startups crowd emphasize PDCA and iterative improvements based on the scientific method:

Mr Ries and other new management thinkers – notably Steve Blank, a former entrepreneur who now teaches classes at Stanford and the Haas Business School at Berkeley – say the risks in any start-up can be reduced by constant interaction with potential customers during product development.

This doesn't necessarily apply just to websites, as similar concepts can be found in the “3P” methodology (“Production Preparation Process”) that's used in manufacturing and healthcare to design space and processes. Compared to traditional design, 3P really engages front-line staff and used multiple cycles including full-scale mockups to test out space and iterate before it is built. You want to find problems EARLY while it's still easy and inexpensive to make changes.

Ries agrees these ideas can be applied to non-startups:

He recently returned from a trip to the UK and Ireland, during which he says he advised multinationals on their innovation processes. “My own definition of a start-up is an institution asked to create something new under conditions of high uncertainty,” he says. “This has nothing to do with company size.”

A hospital designing a new patient tower, in the era of healthcare reform, can be considered a “high uncertainty” environment, right?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Lean is definitely not cheap. It takes every person in an organization to understand and be sold on the philosophy. It takes quite a bit of man hours and training to impliment. And of course it’s always an on going process. But in the end, hopefully we do a better job in every part of our process from beginning to end… and it benefits our customers with a superior product delievered quickly and efficiently.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Eric’s work is exceptional and I am fully on his side.

    Lean is all about thinking the best way towards a given goal.

    If the goal is then also valuable and appreciated by all stakeholders, then lean is really the most powerful approach to improve current processes towards a thought and visioned future.

    With a strong passion in Systems Thinking I am always amazed in which fields of life lean is already practices without even being named or called or put into connection with “lean” itself.

    Best, Ralf


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