After reading “Lean Startup” and reflecting upon the companies we have worked with over the past year, I am constantly reminded of the importance of accountability mechanisms. The Lean Startup book has been on my nightstand since I met its author, Eric Ries, at SXSW 2012. Understanding agile development and MVPs, I thought there was not much to learn from the book until I heard Eric’s keynote. You may get the punchline, but if you have not read the book or seen Eric speak, trust me, you need the context to appreciate how to make a process work for start-ups. Understanding what a lean process is all about and actually implementing the process is two very different things. And Lean anything doesn’t work without accountability.
Yes, accountability. The stereotype is that entrepreneurs don’t want accountability – if they had wanted structure and regimen, they would have a corporate job. The reality is that an entrepreneur will never find success without accountability. Business owners need to be accountable to their family, peers, business partners and employees. Accountability mechanisms that are ingrained into the operating system of a business, especially a start-up, clearly separates the winners from the losers. Without a process of tracking progress and goals, a company has nothing. Eric put it best in the book “A lean startup needs a process that provides a natural feedback loop”.
So for you business owners that don’t feel you have an operating process with accountability mechanisms in place, start by reading Traction and Lean Startup. Then don’t be afraid to get a coach – much like you would hire a trainer to help with your exercise regime. You may know how to exercise, but having a trainer waiting for you at the gym at 6am – being paid whether or not you show up – holds you accountable to meet your goals. A coach can come in many forms. It can be an organization like Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a company like EOS and Gazelles dedicated to coaching small business owners, or it could be an experienced mentor or advisor. Whatever form it comes in, small business owners need a human accountability and support mechanism.
So as I reflect back on the past twelve months at over a dozen companies we have had the pleasure to work closely with, the evidence is clear: accountability mechanisms married with operating systems work is a clear differentiator from the achievers and flounders.