Thoughts on development, design and the world we live in.

Lean Product Development

By sarah in Lean Startup. Posted on December 2nd

I’ve never been particularly interested in process, but over the last year, I have been driven to refine what one of our customers named “The Blazing Path.” It started as an effort to simply explain how the product development cycle works at our consulting company. My search for a simple explanation became a mission that transformed the way we do business. We produced almost a dozen fully rendered diagrams which were tested with partners, colleagues and prospective customers. We validated the Blazing Path as we refined it. I learned that “the simplest thing that could possibly work” is often not simple at all, but every step in the process should be and we must be able to communicate it simply. The Blazing Path is still not complete, and perhaps never will be. It has been fascinating to apply lean startup techniques to the creation of a process. But more importantly, we now have a guide to where we are on the path to product market fit. In true agile form, the path is a cycle, which repeats and reenforces itself. I’ve begun to think of this as a Lean Product process, since it applies to both startups and established companies, to developing a brand new product or the evolution of an existing product.

The Blazing Path

The Blazing Path: a Lean Product development process.
Each phrase is a cycle with inputs and exit criteria.

Increasingly the go-to-market strategy of the products we develop must be embedded in the software with dynamic viral loops, social network engagement and SEO-driven traffic generation. This requires creating marketing strategy in the early phrases of the product cycle. It is both very traditional, yet applies innovative techniques pioneered by Lean Startup folks.

We have a basket full of techniques which can be adapted for different situations. The varied cycles of UX design and customer development can often clash with the steady heartbeat of the agile software iteration. Lean Startup describes this uncertain approach where we figure out the right next step only after we have learned from the previous experiment. By developing a clear vision at the outset and dividing the process into phases, we can get a sense of how far along we are in the search to product market fit. We can develop a map for ourselves, even when we have not yet discovered every step along the path.

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