Innovation and dedication are among the most important factors which contribute to the success of a starting business. Combined together, they are a powerful force that may turn an initial business model into a profitable company. Many of the latest innovations in the tech community have relied on Lean methodology in order to jump start their business into revenue and grow their idea without wasting their limited resources.
Lean has been taking over the tech industry and its Kanban framework has become an essential part of a starting company’s path to an efficient and sustainable future. Business incubators who act as ambassadors of best practices for new companies have begun adopting Kanban in their own processes to serve as example to the startups they host and help them develop steady progress.
An excellent example of this is BlueLion. The Swiss incubator is a nucleus for startups in the fields of ICT and CleanTech. It opened its doors in May 2012 in Zurich and has, since then, helped more than 50 companies to successfully start and grow. They have been applying Lean and Kanban to help nurture small and young companies to help them scale into large enterprises.
“BlueLion is a non-profit organisation supported by a prominent sponsorship. It reports itself as a breeding ground for future internet rockstars.” (http://bluelion.ch)
How does a Lean incubator work?
Very simple. BlueLion supplies all the elements that a starting company needs for success “under one roof”:
- Infrastructure in the form of affordable and ultra modern offices including telecommunications, front desk etc.
- External Network including institutional anchorage with the City of Zurich, ETH, media and investors
- Business Coaching such as marketing support and finance mediation support
- Internal Community from which to draw inspiration and insight
As outlined in the book “The Lean Startup” by the tech entrepreneur Eric Ries, the Lean approach puts an emphasis on customer product testing to shorten development cycles and gain feedback. The main goal of every Lean startup is to minimize waste and gather momentum. In a typical scenario, the entrepreneurs will launch a web page with minimal investment to introduce the idea to the public and if the page gets flocked, they will get on with developing the actual product. Should the experiment result in a failure, the idea is reworked and tested again. In such environments, the traditional project management methods fail to cope with the dynamics.
Simple and yet extremely scalable, Lean Kanban is a preferred method for startup development.
Starting companies are faced with countless problems that need to be solved. Among the most important ones is building an effective and efficient workflow for all of the processes that are being run each day such as, development, marketing, sales, etc. Using Kanban for mapping the process allows the team to keep their focus and visualize every step that needs to be taken in order to bring the young company closer to being a leader in its niche.
The basic Kanban framework consists of three primary components:
- Kanban board to map stages of progress and create a breakdown of work items
- Kanban cards to represent tasks
- Work in progress limits to prevent overloading
It was developed by Toyota in the second half of the 20th century and, with its help, the company grew from a small manufacturer to the largest car maker in the world. Each Kanban board is structured according to the breakdown structure of the team’s work process. Every card hosts a particular work item, which is assigned to a single person and allows clear visibility on the activity of each team member. The WIP limits serve as a tool to prevent multitasking and keep the team in sync with the Lean principles.
The method has evolved and adapted to fit the needs of other industries such as, software development, marketing, logistics and many others. The market provides a variety of digital solutions that provide startups with a wide variety of additional features and tools for measuring progress and efficiency of the team’s activities.
Kanban could be extremely useful for startups that need greater predictability in delivery times, higher quality of the delivered product, to reduce wasteful activities from the work process and improve their flow.