The 3 principles of Lean Media (v 0.3)

By | August 1, 2016

In my July update, I mentioned the development of the three principles of Lean Media, which came out of my work on the Lean Media book as well as my spring presentation to a small audience that included media people. In this post, I will describe the 3 principles of Lean Media in more detail, and present a diagram that will help illustrate the relationship between them. Note that this is still a work in progress, and will evolve based on inputs that include your feedback.

The 3 principles are:

  1. Reduce waste
  2. Focus creativity
  3. Understand audiences

Visualizing the Lean Media framework

In my manuscript, I have an example that illustrates how these three principles work in a real-world situation. But I think it is also important to have a chart or diagram that distills what it’s all about.

For the past few months, I have been thinking about how these three principles interrelate. I sketched out a bunch of diagrams, but eventually settled on this one:

Lean Media framework diagram 0.3

Focusing creativity lies at the center of the framework. This is where the magic takes place. The goal is to let the creators do what they do best with a minimum of distractions and bureaucracy (i.e., reducing waste) and letting them understand who their audiences are and what they want (i.e., understanding audiences).

The book explains the relationship between these 3 principles of Lean Media and the principles that guide other lean frameworks, namely lean manufacturing and Lean Startup. For the time being, the easiest way to understand the three principles is to describe what they entail for people working on new media projects such as a film, video game, website, video, or print publication.

Reduce waste

Media companies like to think big. When a new work is being developed, business and creative leaders may assign or budget lots of resources in order to make the big vision a reality. Unfortunately, more resources does not necessarily lead to better media. In fact, an excess of people and other resources usually leads to redundancy, friction, delays, and planning overhead.

There is also a tendency to grant stakeholders approvals and other forms of buy-in. Stakeholders may be internal (finance, sales, legal, or operations) or external (an investor, partner, or distributor) but the ultimate effect is the same: The creative team has to spend extra time giving updates, asking for approval, and responding to various requests.

In a Lean Media project, reducing waste entails removing unnecessary people, processes, and bureaucracy. The purpose is to keep creative teams as lean as possible, speed up the development process, and budget just enough resources to create something great. By doing so, the creative core will be able to better concentrate on the media work itself, and not waste time and resources on stuff that does not matter.

Focus creativity

The creative team’s job is to create great media. It’s difficult to generalize what takes place at the center of this creative core. Every team and every project is different, but great media always involves talented people leveraging specialized tools and processes to make media that touches their audiences in intangible ways.

Focusing creativity means letting the members of the core creative team work together with a minimum of interference and distraction. It also requires giving them access to information and other inputs that can help them guide the project to a successful completion.

Understand audiences

Creators are often isolated from their audiences. They work in secret, locked in their studios and offices and unaware of what the public will think until after the big launch.

Lean Media strives to break down these walls by encouraging creators to expose audiences to their ideas and media prototypes before the launch. The feedback from test audiences can help the creative team better understand who they are targeting, and make media that is more likely to connect with real audiences after the media is publicly released.

I have so much more to say about this framework, and cover quite a lot of it in the book manuscript. In the meantime, I really need your feedback. Is this applicable to the media you are working on? Do you understand what I am trying to get at? What aspects of the three principles need to be better explained? Please leave you comments below or contact me at ian -at- leanmedia -dot- org



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