I’ve always been a fan of Lean. Most recently Lean Startup has been very influential on me, as it has been on many others. On my desk sits an unread copy of Lean Analytics, and now, I see we have also got ‘lean strategy’, meaning not the strategy of using lean techniques, but rather the use of lean techniques to develop strategy.
In this post, Andy Whitlock of Made by Many, espouses the change in mind set of strategist getting involved in new lean techniques.
Is this still strategy? Not, perhaps in its traditional sense. Many would say lean is almost an ‘anti-strategy’ movement, in the sense of favouring action over long planning cycles. This would make ‘lean strategy’ an aggressive contradiction in terms, a self-destructive oxymoron. And that sounds like some thing we should avoid.
But forgetting all that, what is it Andy is really saying? He seems to have three themes:
1/ The ideas can come from anywhere – strategists need to come to believe that their team is just as capable of generating useful insight as they are, and need to learn the language of their colleagues so they can take part more
2/ Don’t cook up big intellectual theories to confuse people – provide information that can actually be used to do things.
3/ Propose intermediary hypothesis and watch them adapt rather than trying to solve the whole problem upfront. Very lean.
Perhaps it was always a good idea for planners to be less precious (1), less overly intellectual (2) and less hell-bent on grand unifying theories (3). But if the lean movement underscores those needs, so much the better.
For my money, the job of the strategist / planner remains the same: make complicated things seem simpler and figure out how to solve the problem. Doing that in rapid iterations and tests is certainly unusual for the average planner, but should be welcomed by most once they’ve got over the shock of the whole thing, since it gives us a chance to break down and learn about problems in pieces as humans really do, removing the often unrealistic expectation for a sudden, blinding flash of inspirational light.