Every impulse I have points toward running lean. Time after time, I’ve found a small team of badass, dedicated, smart people can get so much more done than a larger, less focused group. I was an advocate of running lean well before I even knew what it was.
But then I spent more time in the working world and I saw how running lean played out over the long term. I saw it play out in myself, in others, in entire teams – people sprinting as hard as they could when it turned out they were running a marathon. I saw the ebbs and flows everybody has in their capacity, not due to any personal failing, but simply because they’re humans.
Family emergencies, illness and injury, turnover, even just normal use of vacation time – any of these can make the wheels fall off if your team is always running at stretch capacity.
It was a gradual realization for me that running lean could only be an effective short-term strategy. When those weeks turn into months and those months turn into years, it falls apart. Quite simply, it isn’t sustainable. You have to account for the reality that sometimes your people won’t be able to go at full capacity.
I do think there are times to run lean. But I also think that if you’re in one of those times, you need to know exactly why that is and what the duration will be. At the end of the day you’re working with people, not robots. And you want to make sure your team is set up for success over the long haul.