Lesson 5: Keep it Simple Stupid


In the previous lesson, we covered what it means when things go wrong and how we can identify our next opportunities.

Here's a brief recap:

The goal of each of our trials isn’t just higher sales and a growing business, it’s ‘validated learning’ about what is responsible for that growth. Every trial, successful or not, feeds our understanding of what does/doesn’t bring customers through the front door and what does/doesn’t make them part with their hard-earned cash.

With that in mind, we need to learn to embrace when things go wrong and work to identify the best way forward.

If you have any feedback at all about these lessons, please do send it across to hello@theleanretailer.com

Lesson 5: Keep it Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.)

How do we turn theory into practice? How do we get lean and stay lean over time? 

At this stage you should be actively engaging in the process of applying the lessons of lean retail to your business.  The transition from understanding something in theory to making it happen in practice can be a difficult one.  So, with that in mind, I have focused this concluding lesson on some broad advice about the practical implementation of lean retail.


1. Start Slow

When first getting going, it's easy to feel compelled to start measuring every aspect of your business, from inventory management to store layout, from staffing schedules to marketing efforts.   

The trick here is to start slow.  Lean retail isn't supposed to be an additional burden to an already busy schedule, it's a way of getting more out of your time by avoiding wasted effort. Choose the areas of your business (marketing, sales, inventory, finances) that you believe could most benefit and start there.  As a rule of thumb, two trials a week is plenty to get started with.  


2. Keep It Small, Keep it Simple

 If in doubt, simplify. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about making the small changes that sum up to a big difference to your business. Instead of reworking the whole layout of your store, think about changing just the very first things your customers see when they walk through the door.  


3. Accept Imperfection

At it's core, lean retail is about applying a data-led, scientific approach to an inherently uncontrollable and unscientific environment.  While I have tried to outline some ways to control our experiments (see 'Building Islands of Innovation'), it is important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the possible. Try to find the simplest, easiest, roughest way to get at the learning you are looking for and accept that results will only provide guidelines for the future and not hard and fast rules.  


4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

Consider all numbers carefully using the old carpenter’s adage: measure twice, cut once.  When making data-based decisions, you have to make sure that you are identifying a broad, lasting trend, not just an aberration caused by a holiday weekend or a particularly rainy April. 


5. Make a Proportional Investment

When choosing which ideas to prioritize, we considered the potential impact on customer happiness, the effect on the bottom line and the time it would take to put in place.  In the same vein, when we progress to building our tests we have to make sure our investment of time and resources is proportionate to the potential gain.  The more time and resources a new initiative takes up, the bigger the impact it should have on your key metrics.  


Bonus: Common Sense

Lean retail is not about making work for yourself unnecessarily.  Especially for experienced retailers, it's about finding a balance between trusting years of experience and subjecting your assumptions to a rigorous examination.  Apply common sense and try to understand the areas of your business where you feel you could use more insight and start there.