Yes, Ash Maurya was holding a talk at itnig! He spoke about his second workshop, “The Art of the Scientist”, and we took the chance to make him some questions about him and the Lean Startup Movement. For Ash, “the principles behind Lean Startup are very simple and seem common sense and obvious. But practising it, is where the hard part comes.” Here you have the whole interview. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZoE11YZbyo

How did you get into Lean Startup movement?

I have been an entrepreneur for many years. And one of the things that I consciously kept running into was that the cycle time for going from “idea” to “successful product” was just too long. That’s why I have always been in search for finding better and faster ways to build successful products. And when I run into Lean Startup, a lot of the ideas resonated with me, and that’s how I got started. In many ways I decided to start testing a lot of its ideas, because putting them to practice was not as obvious… so I started a blog and that blog eventually turned into a book. That’s kind of the quick way how I got into the whole process.

What’s is your best definition of Lean Startup for someone who is just starting with it?

There is a lot of confusion about Lean Startup. For me, the most concise definition is that it is an organization that maximizes learning about what is riskiest in your business model per targeted time… so, speed is very important, learning is very important, and focusing on the right things is very important.

Does Lean Startup scale? How can we keep using its methodologies as we grow our team, and the company in general?

Sure, Lean Startup does scale. And there is lots of case studies that you can find about big companies, companies into it, using it… You can also study a lot of their models. Definitely, there are challenges. Fundamentally Lean is about breaking away the specialisation trap, so trying to build more cross-functional teams, trying to build an experimentation culture. I find that that’s sometimes harder to inject into a big company, which has lots of existing processes. So, I find bigger companies experimenting more with smaller innovation teams. For a small company, one of the challenges when you start practising Lean, as you grow, is try to maintain that level of culture experimentation and building smaller teams. And there you can look at models like Facebook: it is probably a good model of how do they build small innovation teams versus large vertical teams.

Do you have any killer strategy for prioritizing? How can we know we are prioritizing well?

That’s part of what I’ve been researching a lot lately and what I’ve starting to talk and blog about: I find that the principles behind Lean Startup are sometimes very simple and seem common sense and obvious. But practising it, is where the hard part comes. And it starts by prioritizing the right kinds of risks. So if you incorrectly prioritise risks, you start running experiments which have mediocre results. I would say that there’s just new work that’s being done. I don’t have all the answers yet, but part of it is, working with advisors, working with people, looking at key metrics in your product, and trying to focus on a few things at a time instead of trying to tackle everything about your business.

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O.

On sales leadership

These are some values that I learned that define a leader:

– A leader is somebody who reaches their goals and achieves beyond their individual abilities aligned with their own values and the organization’s values. A leader without a team is not a leader. A leader works for the team, not the other way around.

– Humbleness. Leaders must get to know themselves first, acknowledge their limitations. Acknowledge they have no recipe for success (no one does). They will succeed only by being curious and trying things faster, testing, changing things again, failing again, learning as fast as possible. In sales, everybody notices when things work well, success is measured in € vs budget. A leader must embrace results with no buts and take action to reach the goals.

– A leader works harder, a leader cares about the goals more than anybody else, they took full ownership of the goals. A leader does about anything to remove bottlenecks away on his team, they assist, train, support everybody, anything it takes. They are always the best resource for their team.

– A leader will always be available for everybody in their team, for personal and professional issues. They go the extra mile. They make sure everybody knows that. They earn the team’s trust.

– A leader makes everyone aware that teamwork is not negotiable. Without a cooperative team, there’s no leader. Lone wolves kill the growing/changing organization. Growth happens only WITH the team, not at their expense.

– Leaders communicate all the time, they don’t keep things to themselves, they are honest with their team. They share good and bad. They share the why’s. They trust their team. Trust precedes process and it is the only path to grow at a scale.

– Leaders learn fast and learn mostly from their team. The team has the most valuable knowledge a leader can get, it doesn’t come from books, blog posts, degrees or mentors. The team gets the real shit from the front line. A leader listens to their teams’ impressions and ideas, they explore them all and give feedback. Leaders generate a culture of idea generation and idea sharing. Leaders stay away from guru preaching.

– It’s important to understand people’s personal and professional ultimate goals and motivations. Leaders spend time asking them on their one on ones and they think about them. They write them down. Everybody is playing the movie of their lives, a leader must find out which one is it, they make sure each team member keeps being the hero of their movie.

– Leaders always lead by example, not by title. They show real bravery. Leaders go first to battle. They call leads and close customers. They apologize to customers when the company screws up. They take the shit first. They don’t leave anyone behind. They don’t show their rank, their status, their difference, their pedigree. Startups are flat meritocratic organizations. Leaders must understand well the company goals and they put them first, they are prepared to step down, or step aside, or leave the company at any moment if needed. Company goals are what matters most. Leaders show this to everyone. Company/collective oriented leaders always thrive.

– Leaders celebrate every victory. They visibly show the pain of every defeat. They take every opportunity to show they care. They analyze why/what/how and find out always changes to be made. Then they go and make the changes. They change anything or everything, but never keep on doing what doesn’t work. They shake the whole company inside out before/when goals are not met.

– Leaders set goals that are both ambitious and achievable. They work along the team to make sure they meet the goals. They are flexible when the goals are set wrong. They are implacable when goals are not met.

Most people will never be a leader. It takes time and patience, it takes survival skills, it takes real personal strength. But after committing to all these things, things start to work. Leaders are such when and only when they brought teams to make things work, nobody becomes a leader just by trying it. True leaders make sure they don’t leave the boat until things work (as they will work, ultimately!). They don’t leave the job undone.

– Bernat Farrero CEO at Itnig