A lean look at business

leanI first heard the terms lean and agile about two years ago when I began working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. While the words were thrown around a lot, in employee communications and on our company intranet site, I didn’t really understand what they meant. Post-it notes and detailed charts decorated many of the walls, and every floor had open meeting spaces where tall tables without chairs stood.

As I began going to meetings and working on projects, it didn’t take long for me to realize that these were all part of the lean and agile practices the company was working to incorporate. After reading Steven Blanks article, even more of what BCBSNE does, now makes better sense to me. Is evident that so much of a company or startup’s success is dependent on clear communication and transparency within, high customer focus and continual innovation.

For me, someone who would love to someday be an entrepreneur, the lean methodology is a much smarter and more efficient way of approaching business. It saves time and money, and in the end delivers a much better product. In focusing heavily on initial customer feedback, entrepreneurs can adjust and tweak their product to make it fit what the customer wants before it makes its official launch.

At BCBSNE, almost every decision we make in the company is centered around the question: “What would the customer want?” In fact, T-shirts with the word “customer” are draped on chairs in every meeting room throughout the building. These are to serve as a reminder that everything we do should be done in the best interest of the customers. It’s really rather simple; without the customer, you don’t have a business.

I think one of my favorite takeaways from the article is Blanks focus on the concept that “The founders of lean start-ups don’t begin with a business plan; they begin with the search for a business model.” In establishing a business plan first, entrepreneurs have to predict what will happen without knowing what really will. Essentially, they’re setting themselves up for failure. A business model on the other hand, allows for experimentation followed by feedback, and then execution.  According to Black, this is resulting in better success rates.

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