Many established businesses spend several months building and perfecting new products in their pipeline without ever showing the product or its early prototype to prospective customers. When the products are eventually launched they fail to attract interest from the market. Upon post-mortem (pun-intended), it is often discovered that the market feedback was never incorporated while developing the product.
On the other hand, lean start-ups do not invest a majority of their scarce resources to build the final product. Instead, they develop an early prototype with basic features and attributes. This prototype, popularly referred to as a minimal viable product (MVP) is presented to prospects and early adopters to garner feedback. Based on the market feedback, they refine the prototype, launch an improved version of the MVP and repeat the feedback process until the product closely meets the customer requirements. By using this process of build-measure-learn and leveraging the resultant validated learnings, the lean start-up uncovers the true market need and efficiently utilizes its scarce resources to build products that customers really want
Most businesses operate in an ever-changing environment. Thus, investing time and effort on formulating detailed business plans with uncontrollable assumptions would not be the most efficient use of company resources. Unless building a spaceship to transport critical payload, established businesses should take a cue from lean start-ups who do not rely on a step-by-step plan. Instead, they formulate a milestone-based plan and adopt hypothesis driven experimentation and validated learnings for course correction until they reach those business milestones.
DON’T COLLECT DATA FOR THE SAKE OF COLLECTING DATA
We have all been guilty of this one. Spending hours gathering data from multiple sources and creating reports to share with our team – simply because that’s what everyone else does. However, if the data does not accurately reflect the key performance indicators (KPIs) of the business then the resulting intelligence may be meaningless and waste of company resources. For example, analyzing total impressions of company social media profiles may not be as critical as analyzing number of product demonstrations performed by sales associate against actual sales.
STEP OUTSIDE THE CUBE - TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Even after investing resources on data collection, analysis and jaw-dropping dashboards - you still need to meet with customers to understand them and their pain points. Following up after customer complaints can not only reduce attrition rates, but can also be a source for product and process improvement. For example, your customers may share insights about new ways of using the product that the engineers may have overlooked. No matter how large or successful your company may be, it exists because of your customers.
Many books and best-practices have been professed about value-creating & waste eliminating lean management techniques that can be deployed at an organization, department and even at the product level. My thoughts in this article were influenced by the production philosophy pioneered by Taiichi Ohno, considered as the father of the Toyota’s lean production system, Eric Ries, consultant and author of The Lean Startup, and James Womack, management expert and co-author of Lean Thinking.
Feel free to share your experiences and other best practices with me (and others) by posting your comments.