Minimum viable product and snow removal

It is winter time in the Nordic countries, and with winter comes snow. While doing some routine snow removal the other day, my mind wandered to the Lean Startup concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Snow removal can illustrate the concept quite nicely, so I took this picture of my driveway.

Minimum viable product and snow removal

What is a minimum viable product? It is a complete product in the sense that it actually does something.

The cleared area marked in red is not a minimum viable product. Sure, snow has been cleared across the entire width of the driveway, but you can’t actually use it for anything.

The cleared area marked in blue, on the other hand, is a minimum viable product. You have pedestrian access to the mailbox and out of the yard without walking through snow. You can actually accomplish a task! Yeah, it needs to be made wider for cars, but that’s part of future development, adding more features to the product. As a minimum viable product, the product is already accomplishing something.

The difference between doing Lean or Lean Startup and being Lean

The difference between doing Lean or Lean Startup and being LeanBy now, Lean has a fairly long history. With its roots at Toyota in the 1950s, it had its first run at fame in the West in the 1990s, and more recently the Lean Startup movement has adopted the term to describe their customer-centric product development methods based on Lean principles.

However, while there are lots of companies that are doing Lean or doing Lean Startup, there are precious few companies that are Lean. This is an important distinction, because most often when you do Lean, you are using it as a toolkit, whereas for companies that are Lean, Lean is a fundamental management philosophy that has a dramatic effect on the relationships within the enterprise and also extends beyond the enterprise to the relationship between the company and the society at large.

To understand the distinction, we need to take a look at what Lean is all about.

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Why should primary schools care about Lean?

Why should primary schools care about Lean?It is always exciting to find results being achieved by applying Lean thinking in new environments. So, when I recently came across an article describing how the Bærland Skole primary school in Norway had adopted Lean practices to improve learning results and reduce the administrative burden faced by the teachers, I could not help but reflect on their experiences and think about everything Lean has to offer to education, and primary schools in particular.

In this post, I will summarize the experiences at the Bærland Skole, and consider what Lean can do for primary schools even beyond their achievements.

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If Lean is so great, why are Japanese companies not doing better?

Himeji Castle, JapanI recently came across an interesting, and apparently fairly popular, article on Lean and Japanese management called The Myth of Japanese Companies and Management.

In the article, the author Joseph Paris argues that there is a major disconnect between Lean Six Sigma events and other strategy and finance events in that in the former, a Japanese style of management is seen as something superb, whereas in the latter, mentions of Japanese management hardly make an appearance.

He goes on to argue that most companies have now implemented the tools and methodologies of Lean and Six Sigma into their own continuous improvement programs, and as such, these no longer provide a competitive advantage.

The article does a fine job illustrating its points, but its fundamental misconceptions about Lean do an even better job at illustrating how poorly Lean is understood in the West at large.

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On IKEA Pencil and the Lean lesson within

On IKEA Pencil and the Lean lesson withinSo, IKEA did it again – an excellent parody of the latest Apple launch (The Apple Pencil stylus). This is not the first time IKEA has used Apple parody in its advertisement, either, as last year they had a similar idea with the IKEA catalog launch, the Bookbook – i.e. just an ordinary book – the many virtues of which were elaborated on a spectacular video commercial.

In addition to the fun, there is a deep Lean lesson involved. And hey, given the context of this blog, that’s what I’m really interested in, so let’s take a look.

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Four lessons from QuickyBaby on continuous improvement – and video game streaming

Four lessons from QuickyBaby on continuous improvement – and video game streamingInsights are acquired from surprising places. One such place for me when it comes to continuous improvement and work in general is live video game streaming on Twitch.

In this post, I will dig into four behaviors that are regularly exhibited by the popular World of Tanks (an online team-based tank battle game) streamer QuickyBaby, adopting which can possibly make you a popular streamer, but which can also prove to be useful in many other pursuits in life.

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Can all support functions become strategic business partners?

Can all support functions become strategic business partnersCompanies are constantly looking for ways to be more effective and more focused. This places a major strain on the support functions, as they need to prove their worth in creating value for the business or face more and more cost-cutting measures and outsourcing. This has led practically all support functions to seek a deeper partnership status with the core business units. However, therein lies a problem: how many partners can the core business units have? Is it viable for all support functions to become business partners? If it isn’t, which ones of them can reach this level?

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Managing inherent uncertainty with Lean Startup and social business

Managing inherent uncertainty with Lean Startup and social businessWe live in a world full of uncertainty. If there was no uncertainty, waterfall would be an infallible project management method and a well-written business plan would be the key to success for any startup.

So, given that uncertainty exists, we face the question what to do about it. The traditional answer has been to reduce uncertainty and thus make things manageable, and there are still many advances that can be achieved in that field.

However, the more uncomfortable question is what do we do about things that remain uncertain? What if some of this uncertainty is inherent, something we are never able to remove? In such cases, we need to build systems to manage this uncertainty, even harness it, instead of merely attempting to reduce it.

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