Lean Startup In Japanese Companies

Implementing the Lean Startup in any company is hard.  All the culture and incentives are designed for execution. Innovation at times seems like you’re swimming up hill.  Now compound that level of effort with trying to put a Lean Startup culture in place in Japan.

According to Takashi Tsutsumi and Masato Iino, Japanese companies tend to be technology centric, obsess over quality and have weak leadership.  Technology centric leads to companies ignoring their customers and the challenge is that they don’t do customer interviews.  The obsession with quality leads to a silo mentality and a mania for procedure, the challenge is a lack of flexibility. And weak leadership leads to a reluctance to change and the inability to mandate Lean as an innovation process.

They list four actionable steps for implementing Lean in Japanese corporations.  I think they’re relevant for all companies.

If you can’t see the presentation click here

4 Responses

  1. Insightful thoughts from Japan!

    I think the Japanese culture strives for perfection… and forbids most Japanese companies to talk to customers before the product is ready. That culture, as the Japanese have well demonstrated, might work in sustaining innovations where you are convinced your insights on how customers have responded in the past will dictate you to build something customers will buy next…

    Insights have gone wrong. Large companies have collapsed. In Japan and outside.

    In 2014, I decided to put Customer Development to practice when I consulted a 40 year old Japanese industrial waste management company design a repeatable and scalable investment ready business model for a spin-off in Malaysia. As you may already know the Japanese were not too happy talking to customers, partners and investors early. But when we finally did it (very, very subtly) over a 12 month period… the spin-off with multi-million dollar investments pivoted big time… and we felt like heroes!

    Thank you, Steve.

  2. This is a very interesting take on the Japanese from a cultural view point. Although they seem to be 180 degrees from the iCorps teachings for new startups. The Japanese have done very good at market penetrations of a variety of global markets – for example the semiconductor manufacturing, car manufacturing, and battery cell manufacturing – i can name a few others – so what was their secret to success in those markets? Any Comments welcomed.

  3. Do you have a Japanese version to show to my colleagues ?

  4. Toyota has been adopting Lean Startup over the last few years. A team I advise spoke at Eric’s conference and I’ve been trying to share how they are sorting this out: https://medium.com/neo-innovation-ideas/lean-startup-comes-home-8f205993da40#.q7tk45o90

Leave a Reply