Why lean? Because lean means strong with muscle but no fat. Lean means useful. No frills. You may have heard of the lean startup or lean manufacturing. It’s a set of ideas that started about 70 years ago, revolving around PDCA: plan-do-check-adjust. The idea first came up in relation to the auto manufacturer Toyota, as lean manufacturing. It was also called “the Toyota way.” It was adopted later by a collection of experts and authors, most notably Eric Ries and Steve Blank with their work on The Lean Startup. It’s a process of continuing improvement in steps, or cycles, each one involving plan, action, checking results, and revising the plan to start again.
Just like all these other applications of lean, lean business planning is also a process of taking steps, tracking results, and revising to improve. The lean plan itself is a lot like the minimum viable product in the lean startup. (I called the lean plan the minimum viable business plan in early drafts, but that would be pushing too hard.) It’s much more focused, specific, practical and easier to do than a full formal business plan. The lean business plan is four steps: Set the strategy, then tactics, then milestones, then basic numbers, then track results, review, and revise.
I’ve come up with a slight revision of the classic PDCA cycle. My version, develop for lean business planning, is PRRR, for “plan, run, review, revise.” And I could add another R for repeat (but that would be pushing too hard).