John Shook – #Lean Production Meets #LeanStartup | Mark Graban’s notes

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Blog post at Lean Blog : After their recent recorded conversation, it was great to see John Shook, CEO of LEI, and Eric Ries, Author of The Lean Startup together on[..]




Michel Baudin‘s insight:

The Lean Enterprise Institute’s John Shook shared the stage with “Lean Startup” author Eric Ries at a conference in San Francisco.

I was wondering whether Shook would in any way endorse Ries’s ideas as having anything to do with Lean. Mark’s notes show no evidence of that. It seems that Shook essentially explained his background at Toyota and NUMMI.

“The Lean Startup” is a good read. The ideas are reasonable, plausible, and well explained, including the “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) and “pivoting.” In fact, they have taken root in the vocabulary of software entrepreneurs, at least here in Silicon Valley.

But are they, in any way, related to Lean?

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12 comments on “John Shook – #Lean Production Meets #LeanStartup | Mark Graban’s notes

  1. I think John’s appearance is at least an implicit endorsement that there is something good going on in the Lean Startup community. I know John has read and studied a lot about this in the past year or so. John only had 12 minutes (as did the other speakers), so I think he did a great job of adding his perspective and reinforcing concepts about Lean Culture that Eric talks about in his work (respect for people and continuous improvement).

  2. What I don’t understand is why Eric Ries absolutely wants to connect his ideas on starting up companies with Lean and Toyota. For expertise on starting up companies, the go-to place is Palo Alto, not Nagoya.

    HP built its first minimum viable product, an oscilloscope, in the late 30s, about the same time Toyota built its first car. The area has been known as “Silicon Valley” for the past 35 years. Besides HP, it has spawned Intel, Apple, Oracle, Cisco, Electronic Arts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Genentech, and many others. It has also attracted many people who have thought long and hard about entrepreneurship, have practiced it themselves, and have written about it. I am thinking in particular of HP’s Dave Packard and Intel’s Andy Grove.

    This is completely independent of Lean. If all there were to Lean were respect for people and continuous improvement, it would be difficult to tell apart from Packard’s old “HP Way.”

    Silicon Valley startups create new markets for new technology. They offer products and services that nobody knew they needed until they existed. What Toyota did was enter a mature industry and overtake the established players. This is by no means an easier challenge, but it is a different one, calling for different approaches.

    The bottom line is that I just don’t see the relevance of Toyota to startups, and I don’t see any trace of Lean specifics in Eric Ries’s book.

  3. I can’t speak for Eric, of course, but I think the relevance of Toyota is that there’s a holistic management system there that is a clear alternative to top-down, command-and-control management.

    There’s already a lot of application of Lean/Toyota approaches in software development, “agile” development, “Lean IT,” kanban (different than factory kanban), so I think it makes sense for Eric to say, basically, hey this is about the culture and the management system, not just about copying tools from Toyota.

    You’re right that startups create new products in atmospheres of extreme uncertainty. That’s why Lean Startup is an adaptation of principles, not a direct copy.

    I wrote more about this here today:

    • Your LeanPost report is much more extensive than yesterday’s notes, and I think all readers of this thread should check it out. Again, I just don’t believe in slapping the “Lean” label on all good ideas, particularly where the automotive pedigree is not a selling point. Toyota is not the only company to have a holistic management system that is an alternative to command-and-control, and Silicon Valley has produced examples that are more relevant to today’s startups than Toyota.

      Software development is a case in point. Ever since the computer was invented, people have been struggling to organize this activity. In the late 1940s, Alan Turing wrote an astonishingly accurate prediction of the work behavior of programmers, a profession that didn’t exist yet. In the 1960s, the designer of the IBM 360 operating system, Frederick Brooks, wrote The Mythical Man-Month about the management of software projects. In the 1970s and 80s, you had Ed Yourdon, Larry Constantine, and the still active Tom DeMarco.

      And that is not counting practitioners who didn’t write up what they did.

      Toyota is not a leader in software development. Why not look instead to organizations and people who are?

      • You’re absolutely right that we shouldn’t just slap the “Lean” label on anything good or otherwise the Toyota/TPS/Lean body of knowledge becomes worthless and irrelevant.

        And you’re spot on that Toyota is not a leader in software development. There were two Toyota software engineers (from Mountain View) who presented at the conference about how they are using Lean Startup concepts now (or are experimenting with them to develop a new in-dash entertainment system). “We had never talked to customers before,” said the Toyota guys. Shocking, but true. They were more Silicon Valley than they were Toyota.

      • Who says that the Silicon Valley culture is not about talking to customers? Two venture capitalists that I used to know when they were entrepreneurs in the early 90s, Roger Strauch and Dan Miller, started a business with an electronic proof-of-delivery system for UPS. To understand the requirements, they went on delivery rounds with UPS drivers.

  4. One other thought – the Lean Startup approach is not just limited to software development. At the conference, we heard people using this approach to create new products and services in the non-profit and city government spaces, as well.

  5. As someone who has been taught lean at Toyota and now I’m starting up a tech co. I can say that there is a lot missing in LSM but that’s not a bad thing.

    I can write a book (at least a chapter) on what to add. John’s appearance means that there is something to this movement and he may be ready to add to it.

  6. Michel – if most startups were actually talking to customers, it wouldn’t seem like such an earth-shattering idea to “get out of the office” and actually talk to real live people. But, sadly, that notion seems to count as revolutionary.

    • Excellent video, which shows that Toyota managers are aware that they are not leading in this area, and are willing to adopt ideas from Silicon Valley.

  7. Pingback: Top stories I shared during the week including Who the F..k is WhatsApp | Startup88

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