If all goes well, you eventually stop being a startup. You’ve found product/market fit, and you’re scaling even as your growth slows to that of a big company. But hopefully you’re still analytical. Hopefully you’re still thinking in terms of learning, and continuous improvement, and demanding that data back up your opinions.
Your startup has succeeded when it’s a sustainable, repeatable business that can generate a return to its founders and investors. It might take on additional funding at this point, but the purpose of the funding is no longer to identify and mitigate uncertainties, it’s to execute on a proven business model. Data becomes less about optimization and more about accounting. If there are “lean analytics” going on, they’re probably in new product or feature discovery, and look more like intrapreneur innovation.
We started by saying that if you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it. But there’s a contrary, perhaps more philosophical, observation we need to consider. It’s a line by Lloyd S. Nelson, who worked at Nashua Corporation. “The most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” This smacks of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns,” and as your company grows and achieves a degree of operational consistency, figuring out what you don’t know becomes a key task of management.
Nelson’s point was that we often do things without ...