精實創業改變一切

Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything
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新創公司是在尋找商業模式,而不是執行商業模式;取材自史蒂芬.布蘭克為本刊撰寫的文章〈精實創業改變全世界〉。

近年來,「精實創業」方法引起廣泛關注。為探討這個方法,我們要參考史蒂夫.布蘭克的研究,他是精實創業運動的主要思想家之一。首先來談創立事業的傳統方法。方法如下:步驟1:撰寫商業計畫;步驟2:組建團隊;步驟3:推出產品;步驟4:開始盡力銷售產品。

曾有段時間,幾乎所有新事業都遵循這種方法。問題是,在這一系列步驟當中,大多數新創公司會在某個環節失敗。背後有幾個原因。第一,商業計畫通常包括對收入、獲利、現金流量的五年預測。但試圖事先釐清事業的各種未知情況,是不切實際的。面對不確定性時,這些五年計畫毫無用處,多半與顧客第一次接觸時就失效了。

通常,創辦人花數千小時準備要推出的產品,卻沒有徵詢顧客的意見,等到產品製造出來,銷售人員出去銷售時才徵詢。而這時,很多創業者才很辛苦地發現,顧客不想要或不需要自家產品的大多數功能。新創公司不是大公司的縮小版。

新事業是在尋找商業模式,而非執行商業模式。這是精實創業方法的關鍵區別。要尋找商業模式,你必須實驗,快速從一個失敗轉向另一個失敗,直到發現可長久採行的模式。

現在來檢視精實新創公司使用哪些工具和原則,來尋找新的商業模式。第一,精實創業者明白,自己最開始擁有的是一堆未經測試的假設,因此他們不撰寫詳盡的商業計畫,而是粗略寫下他們的假設,通常是寫成一頁文件,稱為商業模式圖。

這份文件包含一些區塊,分別列出新公司的每個基本要素:關鍵合作伙伴、活動、資源;顧客價值主張、關係、通路和市場區隔;成本結構和營收來源。

在每個區塊中,創辦人列出企業待測試的關鍵假設。第二,精實新創公司遵循「顧客開發」實務,也就是測試這些假設。但你不能坐在辦公桌傾聽顧客意見,而應走出辦公室,詢問潛在使用者、買家、合作伙伴,徵求有關這個模式中所有要素的回饋意見,包括產品功能、定價、行銷。

為了針對顧客進行測試,團隊迅速製作最精簡可行的產品:新產品的精簡版,只包含必要的功能,其他功能都不添加,供顧客試用。

如果回饋意見顯示假設是錯的,創辦人就會修改那個假設,或「轉向」全新的假設。如果這個假設是錯的,他們會再嘗試。他們繼續測試假設,聽取顧客意見,一直進行到訂購流程和產品的早期使用階段,直到新公司的商業模式驗證有效。精實創業的第三個核心原則,是敏捷的產品開發,這與顧客開發相輔相成。這個原則採用源自軟體業的實務。

傳統的產品開發包含一系列步驟,每個步驟持續幾個月,整個過程至少要一年。相反的,敏捷流程包含許多較短、一再重複的週期。新公司一開始並沒有制定完整的規格,然後製造產品,而是走出去,徵求顧客對最精簡可行產品的意見,然後重新製作,接著再對顧客測試,然後再次重做。藍河科技公司是說明這種運作方式的好例子。

該公司創辦人最初的願景,是打造機器人割草機。但他們在十個星期內與一百多個顧客交流之後,發現自己最初的目標,即高爾夫球場,並不重視他們公司的解決方案。於是他們開始與另一個潛在顧客區隔交流,也就是農民,結果發現對於不使用化學藥品除雜草,有很大需求。

於是他們轉向,在十個星期內,建立和測試了自動除草機的原型。但他們在不斷測試並與農民交流時,發現農民的一個真正的痛點,是用於拉開生菜種植間距的時間和費用。

所以他們再次轉向,為此建立了原型,展示給美國最大型生菜種植業者。如今,全美國生產的生菜中,有5%使用藍河的生菜機器人來種植。一旦那些創辦人擁有準備好可銷售的產品,公司就進入執行階段。

這家新公司迅速加強行銷、銷售支出和營運。但這些階段也要反覆改善:團隊可能會失敗好幾次,然後找到正確方法來建立顧客或公司。

傳統新公司的職能部門裡,成員都經驗豐富,但精實新創公司的敏捷團隊成員,都是學習得很快的人。他們衡量績效的方式也不同。精實創業方法雖然不保證新事業會成功,但確實對經濟產生影響。

史蒂夫.布蘭克認為,精實創業方法將提升新創公司的整體成功率。隨著既有成熟產業遭到新科技和全球化所破壞,很多產業正迅速裁員。未來幾十年中,就業成長勢必來自新創公司。

成功的新公司愈多愈好。精實方法也有助於減輕過去限制新創公司成長速度的障礙。以新創公司面臨的四個障礙為例。精實方法可減輕前三個限制,因為能協助新公司打造出顧客真正想要的產品,而且速度遠比傳統方法更快。

這大幅降低了創業風險,因而削弱第四個障礙。與此同時,商業和科技的新趨勢也在打破障礙。天使基金、新創加速器、群眾外包網站,都分散了融資管道。

開放原始碼軟體和雲端服務,降低了軟體開發成本。而容易使用海外製造,讓新創公司不必再建造工廠。以Roominate為例,這家新創公司由研究生創立,他們設計一套附電線、可組裝的娃娃屋玩具套件,讓女孩對科技和工程產生興趣。

他們反覆調整設計,完成後就把產品規格發送給中國的合約製造商,三週之後拿到第一批產品。Roominate已經售出超過20萬套,《時代》雜誌把它的產品評為年度十大玩具之一。

精實創業技巧正擴散到年輕的科技新創公司之外。全美各地的大學現在都開設精實創業方法的課程。愈來愈多企管碩士課程不再辦商業計畫競賽,改為商業模式競賽。大公司也正在採用這些技巧,以改善創新流程。奇異、高通、益博睿和財捷等公司,都在嘗試精實創業方法。

早期的這類計畫之一,是奇異家電的Monogram系列。2013年,一個小團隊被指派用三個月創造出可行的產品。那些工程師和零售銷售人員,與室內設計師交流想法,開發出最精簡可行產品,以進行測試。但顧客不喜歡它:不鏽鋼顏色太暗。因此團隊改了顏色。然後,照明測試的結果不理想。團隊修改後再次測試。七個月後,團隊推出第五個版本,而顧客開始喜歡這個產品。

他們在2014年初製造75個版本6的產品,但仍持續修改,直到這個產品於那年下半年在全美推出為止。這只是奇異透過FastWorks計畫所設計的眾多產品之一,這項計畫運用精實創業方法。管理教育的前一百年專注於建立工具,以改善既有業務的執行和效率。

現在我們擁有第一套工具,可協助我們在創立新公司時,尋找新的商業模式。精實方法用實驗取代詳細規畫,用實地收集的顧客意見取代直覺,不採取漫長的線性產品設計流程,改為快速進行許多反覆改良。

它也不再認為必須不惜一切代價避免失敗,而是預期失敗一定會發生。失敗是前往成功的道路上,不斷學習和順應環境過程的一部分。如果你採取這種心態,以及精實創業的其他技巧,你的組織就更能迅速創新,迎向當今無處不在的破壞力量。

(劉純佑譯)


New ventures are searching for a business model, not executing one. Based on the article by Steve Blank.

The “lean start-up” methodology has gotten a lot of buzz in recent years. To explore this approach, we’ll draw on the work of Steve Blank, one of the leading thinkers of the lean start-up movement. Let's begin with the traditional approach to launching a business. It goes like this: Step 1: Write a business plan. Step 2: Assemble a team. Step 3: Introduce your product. Step 4: Start selling it as hard as you can.

There was a time when almost all ventures followed this approach. The problem is, somewhere in this sequence, the majority of startups fail. There are several reasons for that. For one, business plans typically include a five-year forecast for income, profits, and cash flow. But it just isn't realistic to try and figure out the unknowns of a business in advance. These five-year plans are useless when faced with uncertainty, and rarely survive the first contact with customers.

Typically, founders invest thousands of hours preparing their product for launch without getting any customer input until the product has been manufactured and the salespeople go out to sell it. At that point, many entrepreneurs learn the hard way that customers don't want or need most of the features of their product. Start-ups are not mini versions of large companies.

New ventures are searching for a business model, not executing one. This is a crucial distinction that the lean start-up approach makes. To search for a model, you have to experiment, going quickly from failure to failure until you find something that sticks.

Now let's look at the tools and principles lean start-ups use as they search for new models. First, lean start-up founders recognize that all they have on day one is a bunch of untested hypotheses. So instead of writing an elaborate business plan, they sketch out their hypotheses -- often on a one-page document called a business model canvas.

This document contains a block for each essential component of the new enterprise: key partners, activities, and resources; customer value propositions, relationships, channels, and segments; and cost structure and revenue streams.

Within each block, the founders list the critical hypotheses that the business needs to test. Second lean start-ups follow a practice called customer development. This is where you test those hypotheses. You can't listen to customers at your desk, though. You have to get out of the building and ask potential users, buyers, and partners for feedback on all elements of the model, including product features, pricing, and marketing.

To run tests with customers, the team quickly creates a minimum viable product: a pared-down version of the new offering that includes only the necessary features -- and nothing more -- to try out on customers.

If feedback shows that a hypothesis is wrong, the founders revise it or “pivot” to a whole new hypothesis. And if that hypothesis is wrong, they try again. They continue to test assumptions and listen to customers well into the ordering process and early use of the product, until the venture has a proven model. A third core principle of lean start-ups is agile product development, which works hand-in-hand with customer development. It applies practices that originated in the software industry.

Traditional product development involves a step-by-step sequence, with each step lasting several months, and the entire process at least a year. In contrast, the agile process involves many short, repeated cycles. Instead of drawing up complete specifications and building the product first, the venture goes out and gets customer feedback on the minimum viable product, reworks it, tests it again with customers, and then reworks it again. Blue River Technology provides a good illustration of how this works.

The founders originally had a vision of building robotic lawn mowers. But after talking to more than a hundred customers in 10 weeks, they discovered that their initial target -- golf courses -- didn't value their solution. Then they began to talk to another potential customer segments -- farmers -- and found a huge demand for a way to kill weeds without chemicals.

They pivoted and within 10 weeks they had built and tested a prototype for an automated weed picker. But as they kept testing and talking with farmers, they discovered that a real pain point for them was the time and expenses in thinning lettuce.

So they pivoted again, build a prototype for that, and showed it to the largest lettuce grower in the United States. Today, 5% of all lettuce produced in the U.S. has been grown using Blue River’s lettuce robot. Once the founders have a product that's ready to sell, the business moves into the execution phase.

The venture rapidly ramps up marketing, sales spending, and operations. But these stages are iterative, too: The team may fail several times before finding the right approach to customer-creation or company-building.

Unlike traditional ventures where functional departments are staffed by people with lots of experience, lean start-ups have agile teams staffed by people who learn quickly. They also measure performance differently. Though lean start-up methods don’t guarantee the success of new ventures, they do have implications for the economy.

Steve Blank believes that lean start-up methods will increase the success rate among new businesses overall. As established industries are disrupted by new technologies and globalization, many are rapidly shedding jobs. In the next few decades, job growth will have to come from new ventures.

The more of them that succeed, the better. Lean methods also help mitigate past constraints on the growth rate of start-ups. Consider these four barriers to start-up formation. A lean approach eases the first three constraints by helping new ventures create products that customers actually want -- and do so much more quickly than by traditional methods.

That makes starting a business far less risky… which weakens the fourth constraint. Meanwhile, new trends in business and technology are also breaking down barriers. Angel funds, start-up accelerators, and crowdsourcing sites have decentralized access to financing.

Open-source software and cloud services have salshed the cost of software development. And with easy access to offshore manufacturing, start-ups don't have to build factories. Consider Roominate, a start-up lunched by grad students who designed a wired-dollhouse kit to get girls interested in technology and engineering.

Once they had finished iterating on their design, they sent the specs to a contract manufacturer in China and got their first products back in three weeks. Roominate has already sold more than 200,000 kits, and Time magazine named its product one of the year's top 10 toys.

Lean start-up techniques are spreading beyond young tech ventures. Colleges and universities across the country are now offering courses in the lean start-up approach. More more MBA programs are abandoning business plan competitions and replacing them with business model competitions. Big corporations, too, are adopting these techniques to improve innovation processes. General Electric, Qualcomm, Experian, and Intuit are among those trying out the lean start-up approach.

One early initiative was refrigerator with French doors for GE Appliance’s Monogram line. In 2013 a small team was given three months to create a working product. The engineers bounce ideas off retail sales people and interior designers, and created a minimum viable product to test. But customers didn’t like it: The stainless steel was too dark. So the team changed the color. Then the lighting tested poorly. The team revised it and tested again. Seven months later, the team was on version 5, and customer started to like it.

They built 75 units of version 6 in early 2014, but kept revising until the product rolled out nationally later that year. It was just one of many products GE has designed through its FastWorks program, which applies lean start-up methods. The first 100 years of management education focused on building tools to improve the execution and efficiency of existing businesses.

Now we have the first set of tools to help us search for new business models as we launch start-up ventures. The lean approach replaces elaborate planning with experimentation, intuition with customer feedback gathered in the field, and a lengthy, linear product-design process with many quick iterations.

It also replaces the notion that failure is to be avoided at all costs with the idea that failure is an expectation. It's part of the process of constant learning and adaptation on the way to success. If you adopt this mindset and the other techniques of the lean start-up, your organization will be better able to innovate rapidly and to meet the disruptive forces that are so pervasive today.



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