This is a brilliant book, so insightful and resounds with what I have seen during my career so far. In fact, even reading through my notes it excites me.
As a Product Manager I have worked in numerous industries those being; Financial Services, Media, Academia, Insurance, and e-commerce (albeit within the data warehousing area). I have seen a number of different ways to address the SDLC process, from Waterfall, Wagile (Waterfall process that everyone claims is Agile) through to Agile. I have never been involved in anything related to the Lean Startup Method, i.e. conducting experiments to determine if the product / idea / strategy works or not. Within the e-commerce company they have the concept of test and learn which resonates quite closely with the Lean Startup Methodology.
Fundamentally this is advocating we become scientists (which in itself excites me) who are conducting many experiments around ideas so we can get a better understanding of these ideas with the aim of building a sustainable business rather than another start up that fails. To achieve this we need to celebrate failures as we learn so much from failed experiments which are simple and give us insights into our business plan / strategy to empower us. The earlier we fail the better.
A lot of this test should be based upon the prinicple of the MVP (which most of us will have heard about). I have heard / seen MVP’s in action, and I have been troubled by it. Hearing / seeing people working for months on an MVP which serves the customer with exactly what each customer is asking for but not necessarily being built to production level because it is an MVP (but it is going into Production to serve all customers immediately). This book defines what an MVP should be, it should be a simple, small, product that puts your assumptions out there as a test for feedback and then you use this feedback to learn more about your customer to start building out a product that your customers will love. The MVP allows you to create a baseline dataset and from here the learning can begin. You don’t stop after one MVP, but use what you have learned to get to work on the next iteration.
Also, rather than getting caught in the trap of building exactly what the customers dictate (it happens to all of us), the book reaffirms (as do many other books) that customers do not know what they want. Thankfully the book does not sight the tale of Henry Ford whose is supposed to have said if I asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse (so I thought I would, just to fall into the trap :-)).
Other areas touched upon are batch sizes, the engine of growth, and innovation. All of these are very interesting topics, calling out new learnings, e.g. batch size, where small is better as you do not commit so much to learn at the end that it does not work, you can find out earlier and what might be counter-intuitive by breaking something into a smaller batch size.
It even touches on processes, that is as your company grows the need for rigour grows, and how you deal with this. The suggestion is don’t go too far with this too soon, advocating that processes can evolve organically out of a methodical process and constant experimentation and revision. Ultimately quoting Toyota’s proverb “Stop production so that production never has to stop”.
Then there is the 5 whys, this is perfectly summarised with the comparison to the kid that asks why the sky is blue and does not let up. When there is a problem / failure ask why 5 times of the team, and see what happens…. The book reminds us that chronic problems are caused by bad process, not bad people and teaches the mantra “if a mistake happens, shame on us for making it so easy to make that mistake”
There is quite an overlap with Toyota’s TPS (Toyota’s Production System) which I find very interesting how you have can take an industrial process and apply it to a startup, or even a department within a company.
There is so much more to this book, and I have really enjoyed reading and hope to apply some of my learning in the real world and with my next ideas.
For each chapter I have taken notes (quotes from the book), which I would like to share. I strongly advocating buying and reading the book, it will become my bible 🙂
Part One – Vision
Part Two – Steer
Part Three – Accelerate
Reading is good, action is better! 🙂