Governments Can Learn from the Lean Startup.

Author:Reitano, Vincent
Position:The Bookshelf - Book review

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries

Currency, 2011

336 pages, $28

Both public and private organizations can learn from each other by sharing management principles. Lean management--and particularly The Lean Startup by Eric Ries--provides an excellent example. The book's central theme: "We have wildly divergent associations with these two words, entrepreneurship and management ... it is time to look past these preconceptions."

Entrepreneurship and management may seem like distinct concepts, but they should both be part of the principles motivating employees in any public or private organization. Every employee has entrepreneurial ability, so organizations should consider eliminating the perception that entrepreneurs and managers are mutually exclusive functional roles.

The public sector can use Lean principles to potentially overcome bureaucratic barriers through innovation and experimentation. As constituents increasingly demand innovation, and public resources become increasingly scarce, Lean management principles can lead to new solutions for government by making organizations sustainable. For example, as governments start to shift toward innovative methods of long-term financial planning, using forecasts and risk-based fiscal reserves analysis, they can use some of the lean startup principles in Ries' book to guide their efforts.

The first four chapters of The Lean Startup--which cover entrepreneurial vision--focus on the relationship between entrepreneurship and management, illustrated by case studies. Next comes "Steer," which provides concrete steps for how to develop and evaluate products. Finally, the "Accelerate" details how to increase the pace of using Lean principles.


Ries argues that "entrepreneurs have been trying to fit the square peg of their unique problems into the round hole of general management for decades." This is particularly relevant to governments, which are often inhibited by a bureaucratic management style that stifles innovation.

Viewing government employees as empowered entrepreneurs who have the capability to start solving problems is important, but doing so requires considering who these employees are. Ries discusses "intrapreneuers," employees who create innovations, although not via the traditional definition. In context of a government, these employees navigate the implementation of policies and programs. Often, implementation is akin to entrepreneurial management, since it requires charting an...

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