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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
This book is a concise guide that helps you take immediate action in using lean startup and customer development principles. More simply, as the subtitle states, it shows you how to "Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works". The book opens with a brief chapter on the principles behind Lean Startup and Customer Development. For each chapter after that, Ash describes what you will learn, shows you clearly what you need to do, and what decisions you need to make.

The book's chapters are:

Introduction
1. Meta-Principles
2. Running Lean Illustrated
3. Create Your Lean Canvas
4. Prioritize Where to Start
5. Get Ready to Experiment
6. Get Ready to Interview Customers
7. The Problem Interview
8. The Solution Interview
9. Get to Release 1.0
10. Get Ready to Measure
11. The MVP Interview
12. Validate Customer Life Cycle
13. Don't Be a Feature Pusher
14. Measure Product/Market Fit
15. Conclusion
Appendix - Bonus Material - comments and insights on topics including: building a slow burn startup, thoughts on premature funding, achieving flow, pricing models, teaser and landing pages, sales letters, continuous deployment, conversion dashboards

Throughout the book, Ash shows when and how to use methods for activities like: business model planning, interviewing customers, setting up tests for hypotheses, pricing, determining your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), forming hypotheses and conducting tests.

The book isn't just theory. Ash moves beyond the discussion and rationale for using Lean Startup methods which Eric Ries covers in his book The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Ash uses tools, checklist, process flows, interview scripts, and visuals throughout the book to show you how to get the work done.

I've started employing pieces of this methodology in my work at a medium sized business. It is helping me lower risks for projects I manage, and also helps me get to solid solutions and products more quickly, and at lower costs.

If you want a book that will help you get to work NOW on using Lean Startup and Customer Development methods, this is it. Grab this book, and get moving!
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
I've read several books in this field, The Lean Startup, Making Ideas Happen, The Art of Start, and Running Lean is always the first book I recommend to any entrepreneur. It's that great of a book.

What makes this book standout is that there's great intellectual depth behind the concepts and ideas Ash presents but written in a clear, practical manner that makes it easy to follow. If you're debating between Running Lean or The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, definitely start with Ash's first. Here's an example why - Eric advocates doing customer discovery, i.e. talking with customers, and discusses the benefits of doing so. Ash does that and goes further by giving you the actual tactics on how to do so. Where to find those potential customers, how to reach out to them, and even a template of the questions to ask them. That's the beauty of his book, it goes beyond the "why" and gives you the specific hows to execute.

The other big benefit of this book is the structure of the content as it's a linear storyline. There's a quick overview, and then Ash starts going from an idea to validating it incrementally into a successful, product that's structured for growth. So you only need to read up to the point your venture is at. That itself follows the idea within the book of "Right Action, Right Time" which puts more of your time taking your venture to the next stage.

This is a 5 star book and worth every penny.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
This is one of the essential books for lean startup practitioners. It isn't theory. You can tell these are real lessons from Ash's own experience running lean startups. This book is very prescriptive; telling you specific things to accomplish. The one thing I found really valuable was the focus on how to map out your startup using the one page "lean canvas". After reading this book, I really got it and elevated my lean startup game.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2012
I figure that if I get more than one usable idea out of a 'how to' book then I am doing well. I got three from this book - a rare achievement in a market full of formula driven thrash.

The first message is clear - long winded business plans that pretend to predict the future have no place in a lean start up and, as someone who's done a lean start up, I agree. The other message? Focus on the customer.

None of that is new, but what I did find new was an approach to business planning and metric monitoring that gets all the important stuff onto one page. While written for software startups, the book has lots of value for anyone trying to get a new business up and running (I'm starting a non-software company and the book has been a godsend).

I would have given this book five stars but it is lumpy. Some points are labored, the obvious is stated a few times too many, and it is a bit heavy on the aconyms..

But these are minor flaws in a book that is perhaps most marked by the obvious excitement of the author for his topic. As for the three things I learnt? Two have been mentioned (the one page plan and metrics - truly great) and the third was some sensible stuff startegies to follow as you get your product to a market fit.

If you are planning a software start up then buy this book - my guess is that you will learn something (if not you can feel comfortable in your pre-existing well rounded knowledge). If you are planning a start-up in another field then this is still worth a read. As I indicated above, I'm starting a new business (a small group tour company) and while much of the book wasn't relevant to the specifics of that business, there was enough there to justify the cover price and time taken to read it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
I'll begin my summary by quoting the author's promise: "Running Lean is a repeatable, actionable process for building products, one that raises your odds for success by helping your identify your success metrics and measure progress against those metrics."

At a high-level, the Running Lean framework is fairly straightforward: validate the problem. Define a solution. Validate the solution. Then develop your solution iteratively while continuing to test and validate along the way. Running Lean offers concrete, actionable instructions and templates for each step of this process.

However, the greatest flaw in this book is hinted in the language of the author's promise. Running Lean is designed more like an algorithm -- painfully detailed, comprehensive, and unemotional -- than a practical field guide for the real world. The book delves into everything from landing page design to kanban boards. In other words, in its attempt at engineering a comprehensive framework for business creation, Running Lean fails to deliver a strong set of core principles (I will revisit this later in my summary).

Another problem I have with the author's promise is that the word "metrics" is mentioned twice, when in actuality Running Lean incorporates very few metrics. In fact, it's not until the very last stage of that actual numbers are even mentioned (eg. Sean Ellis test, 40% customer retention). I found incongruence in the fact that Running Lean was characterized as algorithmic, but was largely based on qualitative experiments without discussion of potential quantitative benchmarks or test methodologies.

Since *Running Lean* is considered the de-facto field manual for Lean Startup methodology, I was eager to read it and compare it to Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation, which I had read previously.

At a high level, NISI and Running Lean prescribe very similar methodologies. However, where Running Lean stumbles, NISI's shines. NISI's focus on simplicity makes it far more powerful and practical. For example, as a first step, NISI focuses _only_ on pain whereas Running Lean starts off with a lean canvas, which forces you to simultaneously consider other parts of the business model. NISI's "less is more" approach proves more effective, because as formulaic and well-engineered as Running Lean tries to be, the reality is that starting a company is stressful and unpredictable.

Another example of unnecessary complexity is useless jargon like "iteration meta-pattern" and "build-measure-learn loop", as well as tangential topics like usability testing, Kanban boards or an annoyingly complex definition of risk: "the way you quantify risk in your business model is by quantifying the probabilities of a specific outcome along with quantifying the associated loss if you're wrong." As a result of its complexity, the milestones in Running Lean are less concrete and powerful than NISI. NISI does a better job painting a holistic picture of common entrepreneurial fallacies, and how to breakthrough them by focusing on the most important goal -- acquiring payed customers.

I also want to highlight two methodological differences between NISI and Running Lean:

1) NISI gets you in front of customers faster. The Lean Canvas is simple, but it seems like the entire exercise should hinge on the customer pain being validated first. That gets entrepreneurs in front of customers faster, which in turn helps save time and wasted energy on the subsequent steps.

2) NISI recommends an objective, quantitative testing method for initially validating the customer pain, whereas Running Lean uses customer interviews. I would argue that as a whole, NISI approaches the startup process more objectively while Running Lean bases it on customer interviews.

Overall, I believe Running Lean is a worthwhile complement to NISI in bits and pieces. Specifically, I found its structured customer interview templates, advice on establishing pricing, and mention of the "Sean Ellis Test" to be valuable and actionable.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
Clear, to the point and practical, it is full of gold and no BS. The structure of the book and its real life examples make it really easy to implement in no time. If you want to DO this is your book, and you will also learn something along the way, a lot more than with other books that talk a lot of theory and are more oriented to the corporate boardroom. Running Lean is the best book out there for entrepreneurs that want to launch their startups using customer development and lean startup.

I really enjoyed reading it and using it to build a new project.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
"This [Lean Startup Movement] is probably the first methodology that's been crowdsourced. Big idea. Unlike previous methodologies where there was an author, textbook and take-it-or-leave-it, this is an iterative process and I think we're all collectively getting smarter at a very scary rate."
-Steve Blank

Summary

Written in the same actionable style as 37 Signals Getting Real, Ash Maurya has supplanted the former as THE guide for bootstrapping and launching a web-based startup. If you're building a new product and haven't read Running Lean, take a break from your startup and go get it. His advice could change your life.

The Book

Running Lean presents a process of discovering a market demand based on Customer Development, Lean Startup, Bootstrapping and his own, in-the-trenches experiences. He addresses the unsexy, tough, practical, day-to-day challenges faced by TODAY'S entrepreneurs.

Forget the generic, one-size-fits-all advice (e.g. "focus on your market!", "follow your passion!") typically shoveled at us by people whose good intentions exceed their experience.

Just as the tagline of his blog promises - practice trumps theory - Ash delivers actionable advice and opinions on question such as:

How do you know if have a problem worth solving? Who do you ask and how do you structure the conversation? Should you record it? Take notes? What do you do afterward?

Should I "just build it"?

Should you quit your job? Raise money?

Finally - I get it

I've been closely following the Lean Startup Movement since 2008: read 4-Steps multiple times, follow Lean Startup Google Group, started a Lean Startup Meetup Group in DC, read Ash's blog, attended Eric's conference in San Francisco...you get my point:

I live this stuff.

Nonetheless, I've found myself struggling to unify the theoretical basis of the Lean Startup movement with the grab-bag of tactics advocated by companies at various stages of maturity.

I kept running into "what should I do now" questions.

Running Lean Works

I decided to restart my work on my last startup (even though I was getting traction) in 2011 by following Running Lean from page 1. I've made more progress in 7 weeks than I did in the previous 5 months.

In retrospect, I was doing many RIGHT things at the WRONG time.

Running Lean has brought clarity to the issues I need to address today.

Like me, you probably won't follow his approach exactly and will develop your own hacks and competing ideas along the way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2012
Ash Maurya presents a step-by-step guide to implement the Lean (Startup) methodology. It's far more down to earth and practical than the most famous Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The latter book introduced thea language to the already existing world of product design-by-experimentation. But it was fairly general and in many ways difficult to apply.

Enter "Running Lean" by Ash Maurya, which precisely describes a process (a procedure even). It tells you what should you do, when to do it, what are the stages in the Lean process and shows some caveats.

Perhaps it's even too detailed. Using a very specific examples from a website project it tries to generalize them which may be not applicable in many cases (as the Lean process itself).

Being a step-by-step, practical manual this book is also difficult to read. I couldn't consume it in one seating as it's, well... a manual.

If you're just looking to learn about Lean Startup movement and method for the sake of knowing, Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a far better read. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

All in all, a must-have (as opposed to must-read) for people planning to apply Lean Startup process in their projects. What's important is that it's not overly detailed, concise and practical.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2013
I read Eric Ries' The Lean Startup and found the subject matter interesting & compelling. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to translate the abstract learning in The Lean Startup into practical, actionable steps. This is what Ash has managed to do so splendidly with Running Lean. And this is what make the books so valuable. Ash is personally invested and dedicated in helping entrepreneurs to succeed (in developing a successful business model before scarce resources are depleted), and he has provided a host of online resources & offline tools to assist you, including actual scripts which can be used for conducting interviews and experiments.

For the startup entrepreneur, forget going to Harvard Business School (FYI, I am an MBA graduate of HBS), purchase this book and apply the concepts religiously. Had I done so, I know I would have saved myself much time, money and the attendant dead brain cells.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2012
There are a lot of great writings about the lean approach to startups, but many of them fall short of implementation details. Ash fixes that. He gives highly detailed, practical instructions in implementing the best principles of lean startups in your business. Having come from two very different startup experiences - one lean and one not - I can say that I wish I'd had his guide before embarking on either of them. Highly recommended.
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