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Lean for All

by Miki Saxon


Are you familiar with Eric Ries’ 2008 conception of lean strategy? Its focus was/is startups, but Scott Cook, Intuit cofounder and current chairman of its Executive Committee, believes it applies to any company looking to innovate, large/old as well as small/young.

A major hallmark of lean is the idea of talking to the target market early to get customer feedback in order to create what the market truly wants,

Lean can be applied to anything—product, service, branding strategy, etc.

Why isn’t it? Why do companies, from Fortune 50 to startups still insist on developing [whatever] and being shocked when customers don’t clamor for it?

Scott’s insight, based on his own experience, provides a telling answer.

“Success is a powerful thing, it tends to make companies stupid, and they become less and less innovative.”

Case in point: Ron Johnson, J. C. Penney’s CEO and the ex head of Apple’s retail ops, who was hired to turn Penney’s around.

Based on his success at Apple, part of Johnson’s strategy was to eliminate sales, coupons and promotions in favor of a steady three-tiered pricing approach.

However, Penney’s isn’t Apple and apparently Johnson didn’t check to see if its customers liked that approach.

They didn’t.

(Even the TV ads didn’t makes sense to me. Remember the kid with the hoop and the dog jumping through it? Hmm, maybe customers don’t identify themselves with trained dogs.)

It’s one thing to stick to your brilliant idea in the face of disagreement from experts, but it’s quite another to do so while ignoring customer input.

As Scott said, “For me it was seeing my brilliant ideas—which I just knew were right—not work.”

The take-away here is to get customer feedback, listen to it and tweak [whatever] accordingly.

And before you say you have no customers and walk away, remember that customers aren’t just the folks who buy a product or service; they are also your people, peers, kids, parents, etc.

Flickr image credit: Betsy Weber

One Response to “Lean for All”
  1. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] whether the current culture is working (think Home Depot) or not (think Penney’s, which I wrote about last month, and that just fired their ex Apple CEO […]

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