The idea of Lean Startups comes from tech companies and is very new. The approach provides the promise of greater efficiency and is beginning to be proposed in the area of development but use of and impact measurement are distant. Within the short time frame for undertaking this review it was not possible to find high-quality evidence on improved development programme delivery with use of the Lean Startup approach or Agile ways of working. Some informal stories were identified. Experts consulted were of the consensus that impact in this area is non-existent. The concept is itself philosophical and intangible so difficult to teach and evaluate. It is hard to incorporate as it is fundamentally a behaviour change. There is some anecdotal evidence but not solid research. Anecdotes of where this approach may have failed tend to be less likely to be reported so caution should be exercised in basing decisions on narrative success stories. However, with acclaim from the business world it would be of service to the development world for DFID to explore and record results on using these ideas to share and teach others.
K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.
Bolton, L. (2017). ‘Lean startup’ or ‘Agile working’ for improved development programme delivery. K4D Helpdesk Report 161. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.