‘Running Lean’ Is The Most Practical Book On The Lean Startup Method

 

Pic of book: Running Lean by Ash Maurya5 Reasons To Read This Book:

    1. The best book for turning The Lean Startup theory into practical reality
    2. A step-by-step, simple, action-oriented blueprint for moving from an initial business idea to taking action
    3. Introduces you to the Lean Canvas, a 1-page business model template that replaces the traditional 80-page business plan
    4. Includes exit criteria for each stage of the process
    5. Proven interview scripts for testing your assumptions about the marketplace problems and solutions you’ve identified

1 Reason This Book May Not Be Right For You:

  1. Does not cover the legal, financial, or accounting aspects of starting a company

Background

The author, Ash Maurya, has been building startups for quite some time now. While building his WiredReach company that he started in 2002 (later sold in 2010), Ash learned about the Customer Development method directly from Steve Blank. From this experience, Ash found Eric Ries and followed Eric’s method called The Lean Startup. Ash attempted to use these startup method’s with one of his recent products called CloudFire but ran into problems with trying to actually practice The Lean Startup method. He eventually took a two-year journey to discover how to practically implement the methods of Customer Development, Lean Startup, and Bootstrapping to successfully launch a startup or build new products. Running Lean is the result of this journey: a step-by-step, simple, action-oriented blueprint that stands on the shoulders of the previously mentioned frameworks. This book is also the first book published within The Lean Series at O-Reilly Media.

Pic of The Lean Series

Who This Book Is For

If you’re one of the following and want to know how to successfully launch a new product or business:

  • Business managers
  • CEO’s
  • Developers and programmers wanting to be an entrepreneur
  • Bloggers, startup cofounders, small business owners, writers, or musicians interested in launching a new business project

What You’ll Gain

I’ll explain these next: the 9 things you’ll be taught, the 3 most important principles the book stands upon, and the 3 main steps in Running Lean.

The Nine Things You’ll Be Taught
  1. How to find a problem worth solving, then finding a business solution
  2. How to discover early customers
  3. When to raise funding
  4. How to discover the right price for your product
  5. Which features to include in your Minimum Viable Product (release 1.0)
  6. How to measure what customers want in the product
  7. Steps for maximizing speed, learning, and focus while launching a product
  8. How to know when you’ve reached product/market fit
  9. How to iterate or pivot along the way
The Three Principles The Book Stands Upon
  1.  Customer Development
    • Steve Blank, of The Startup Owner’s Manual, devised the term Customer Development. This highly successful method of product development gets you out of the building and talking to customers. The feedback is continuously collected to improve the development of new products. The method highlights the fact that many of the answers to your questions lie outside of the building—with customers—not inside your office or on the web.
  2. Lean Startup
    • Eric Ries originally developed the Lean Startup method as a combination of Customer Development, Agile software, and traditional Lean practices (think Toyota). The main objective of the Lean Startup method is to learn as quickly as possible, using the Build→Measure→Learn cycle, to pivot or iterate before you run out of money or other resources.
  3. Bootstrapping
    • Ash Maurya’s definition of bootstrapping for purposes of this book is: taking the right action at the right time.
The Three Steps In Running Lean

Step 1 : Document Your Plan A

  • Here you learn how to sketch out your first guess at what your business model will look like, using the Lean Canvas (see below or at the Lean Canvas website). This becomes the base from which you conduct experiments.

Step 2: Identify The Riskiest Parts Of Your Plan

  • Maybe one of the most important lessons in the book, is that of identifying the most riskiest aspects of your business model to first run experiments on. The sooner you de-risk your riskiest business model assumptions, the less likely you’ll fail later on. This approach saves you time and money. This is worth the price of the book alone.

Step 3: Systematically Test Your Plan

  • Here you learn how to run tests that prove/disprove aspects of your plan so that you can iterate and move forward. These tests use the scientific method.
The Lean Canvas

(the 9 most critical areas of your business model)

LeanCanvas5

 

The Lean Canvas (filled out)

LeanCanvas4

Evaluation

Running Lean by Ash Maurya

Read more reviews of this book on Amazon.com by clicking on the above pic.

I like how Ash Maurya tells us his goal for Running Lean at the beginning: to deliver “a good methodology that provides a feedback loop for continuous improvement and learning.” I think Ash has gone far above and beyond his goal. He has given us the most practical book to-date on The Lean Startup method. While The Lean Startup book was purely philosophical, this complementary book puts it all into action. I recommend reading both books. The great thing about the book is that you can apply the principles not just to new products and startups, but to almost any application where you have to create, plan, or build.

One flaw with the book is that the examples tend to be high-tech or web products. However, the author believes, and so do I, that the principles apply to any product or startup. Another flaw is that the exhibits were all in black-and-white. The reader could have benefited from color to more easily determine the aspects that are important. Despite these small flaws, it was extremely difficult to find any major problems with this book.

I’ve personally used Ash’s advice in a company I started, called RooferQuotes. The author says that entrepreneurs launching a product in a multi-sided marketplace (where you connect buyers and sellers) should not automate match-making at first. I can attest that this is excellent advice. We launched our first product and revised it continuously by manually connecting homeowners to roofers, instead of trying to automate the entire process. This allowed us to get feedback from both homeowners and roofers to determine which features were necessary or not, and which our customers would be willing to pay for. This prevented us from spending a lot of time and money building a product that nobody wanted. In Lean Startup speak, this is called → building a Concierge MVP (minimum viable product).

Final Comments

I think Running Lean is one of the top 5 books for entrepreneurs published in 2012. I’ve used many of the tools in the book for my own work projects recently. I’ve used Ash’s interview scripts for interviewing potential customers about the problems they face in the marketplace, to determine if there’s a problem worth solving. The discussion on using Cohort Analysis for measuring success has led me to other books written on this matter, which I will be reviewing next month. The author even shows how to build a dashboard for your company to keep everyone informed of the experiments you’ve run, what you’ve learned, and what will be tested next. This book is nothing but the best pure practical advice for taking The Lean Startup method and successfully implementing it. There are other books on the subject of Lean Startup, but I believe that to-date this is the absolute best one out there for implementing what was written in The Lean Startup and taking real-world action.

 

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Click here to check out Running Lean on Amazon.com

 

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