A lean approach to innovation: accelerating the pace of leading change
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur in the process of creating a new business to learn from Eric Reiss, author of the Lean Startup. Lean Startup principles are applicable to public sector programs and healthcare. They are more relevant today than ever before because they are about solving major system, business and organisational headaches in a context of reducing waste and where innovation is central to delivering results.
Whether you are leading a business unit, consulting service, public service unit, not-for-profit or e-commerce business that is committed to discovering and delivering a new source of value for your consumers / customers, you can apply the principles. The “Startup” is in fact an organisation designed to create new products or services under conditions of uncertainty and in a context of innovation.
To be successful, leadership must create conditions that enable employees to do the kinds of experimentation that entrepreneurship requires. There must be a culture and systems that enable teams to move and innovate at the pace set by the innovation system. The team must be allowed to take risks and fail without blame.
Learning along the way is paramount. However, don’t use continual learning as a reason for failure to execute! And, if you like ‘vanity metrics’ then this system isn’t for you. Collecting metrics that show progress rather than looking only at the feel-good feedback or implementing a new service and hoping for the best is not part of the plan. Squandering precious resources on theatrics rather than progress is unacceptable.
With lean thinking you monitor efforts to identify what is actually value creating and which bits are wasteful. Lean thinking defines value as ‘providing a benefit to the consumer / customer. Anything else is waste.’ Learning is about seeing the waste and systemically eliminating it.
The Lean Startup concept starts with your Vision. Your vision is the key and something you must not waiver from. Driving the achievement of your vision is strategy of which a core element is identifying what the problem is that you need to solve and then (if its a service issue) develop a minimal viable service to begin the process of learning. Measuring, learning and correcting as you go are core principles of the Startup system. It’s like ‘tuning the engine’ Reiss says. Metrics must however be actionable and demonstrate cause and effect. Asking the 5 ‘why’ questions along the way to study and solve problems.
Above all else, this is about good management and holding the ‘entrepreneurs’ ( a business manager for example is an entrepreneur in this model) accountable for delivering results and reducing waste.