Is Lean Startup Dying?

On GE, Failures, and Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Bryan Alexandros
8 min readOct 16, 2018


If there was a Hype Cycle for all these methodologies and theories, you would find LS is sliding down the far end of the slope.

Steve Blank addressed the topic of the Lean Startup being dead in his September 2018 blog post. If you’re crunched for time, here’s his conclusion:

In short, Lean was an answer to a specific startup problem at a specific time, one that most entrepreneurs still face and which ebbs and flows depending on capital markets. It’s a response to scarce capital, and when that constraint is loosened, it’s worth considering whether other approaches are superior.

Some people insisted this exception applied to the special 1% unicorns where capital was already abundant, or where corporations have the cash to burn. So for the other 99%, LS still makes sense.

For the most part, I agree, but I also don’t think it’s that binary. It’s easy to assume that LS is universally applicable to any problem and any industry because of the barrage of success stories by tech fundamentalists and the mainstream business press.

Like, what can’t LS help with, right?

Every methodology and pet theory gets their moment of fame. The excitement dies away once people see for themselves that LS isn’t always a fit for every situation. If you know a thing or two about Adaptive vs. Technical Problems; Simple Problems vs Complex Problems vs Wicked Problems, you’ll know what I mean.

Let’s talk about GE

Back in 2012, GE’s top management teamed up with Eric Ries who helped create the FastWorks program. GE was suffering as its old business model began to collapse. Much like the successful Six Sigma initiative brought on by previous CEO Jack Welch in 1995, CEO Jeffrey Immelt brought on the LS approach to GE’s product development.

The FastWorks program trained thousands of executives and launched more than a hundred projects around the world. GE transformed its product development, improved product quality, and hired outside industry experts to challenge the way it did things. Here’s an example of one of those projects:

An early example of FastWorks in action



Bryan Alexandros

Stories on running a high-tech advisory firm, self-mastery, and shaping the future through creative action.

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