What Corporations Don’t Get About Being Lean

"…and the kind of person who throws all his socks at the wall and wears the ones that don't stick.", Terry Pratchett (Mort)

The Lean Startup approach seems to evoke mixed feeling among practitioners lately. Corporate critics of the methodology complain that the build – measure – learn framework is all about throwing incomplete products out in the open and see if they stick.

How is lean different and what critics get confused about?

Similarly to the approach applied by Terry Pratchett's character, lean methodology focuses not on what sticks to the market (wall) but rather on what doesn’t stick and then recycles it (reuses). The core is around testing concepts, gathering insights, learning and iterating. Moreover, the model does not presume that its application should deliver a final product ready for shipping from the first cycle. It is like aiming for the bullseye but hitting the wall instead. Indeed, how often do we manage to get it right from the first try?

Saying all this, there are four common misconceptions when it comes to being lean that should be cleared out next:

  • Building or ideas are not the first step in the process of being lean.
  • The lean model is based on three core steps: build – measure – learn. Still, building does not just randomly begins. It is predeceased by hypotheses (read: guesses in a fancy wrapper) that lead to ideas on which basis minimum viable products (MVP) are built. In that sense, an idea is a series of untested hypotheses which span can range from value proposition to customer acquisition, from pricing models to distribution channels.

  • MVP is not a product with fewer features.
  • MVPs are mistakenly perceived as final products with fewer features. The intent of MVPs is to test the ideas, learn and further develop the product to eventually get to the best combination of features. Often done “quick and dirty”, it is the simplest physical or digital version of your idea that you can show to customers that allows you to get a better understanding what you are building and gather insights at that point in time.

  • You can have more than one MVP.
  • The minimum viable product that you need to build to test your pricing model is different from the one that will help you test the specific product features, or the one that will let you test the initially chosen customer target group.

  • There is nothing wrong with going back to square one.
  • The inherent learning from conducted testing most probably will bring you to a point where you will have to change your hypotheses. And that is fine – the lean model itself is about validation or invalidation of the initial hypotheses.

More about this topic
Read the next article