The Paradox of Patience

Lean is all about speeding up cycle times, reducing waste, compressing the hunt for product-market fit. So at face value it seems like it should be all about going fast fast fast.

Ironically I find that lean often requires a great deal of patience, sometimes uncomfortably so.

You need to give yourself time to gather data and let experiments run. You need to give yourself time to convert that data into learning and decisions. You need to give yourself time to iterate on your vision. You need to allow time for little failures in order to prevent a big one.

Thus lean can be a somewhat strange combination of impatient high-speed activity at the micro level, and thoughtful patience at the macro level.

(I should stress the words “high-speed activity” because lean is action-oriented, not about sitting in a conference room “ideating”)

This paradox is hard for a lot of business people to bear. It doesn’t matter whether they are entrepreneurs or EVPs at huge companies. We want our success yesterday. We want sure bets. And the entrepreneur / intrapreneur often gets forced into a box of impatience and vanity metrics in order to get funding. But “sure bet” and “innovation” are polar opposites.

It is only once you come to terms with the fact that most ideas suck, at least when they start, that you start to allocate time, resources, budget to this fast/slow way of working.

It’s not exactly “tortoise and the hare”, since lean does NOT feel slow and steady when you are in the trenches, but there is something to that analogy…

Giff Constable

President & CEO

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