Picnic in the Graveyard

Generative Research: Picnic in the Graveyard

What features should we build? What's the feature set for our MVP? There are a lot of questions we need to answer before we write a single line of code.

This isn't about testing a hypothesis, this is about generating ideas. I've mentioned the difference between Generative Research and Evaluative Testing in lean startup before.

If we know our goal is to generate ideas, there a variety of methods you can use in the Real Startup Book. One of my favorite generative research techniques was told to me by Sean K. Murphy and covered in his post on pretotyping:  Picnic in the Graveyard

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Comprehension test - stop clubbing baby seals

Comprehension vs. Commitment

I love smoke tests. They’re a great way of testing whether or not there is any serious demand for our value proposition.

One common form of smoke test out of the Unofficial Startup Real Book is a landing page test. The landing page states a value proposition with a call to action that asks the user to commit some form of value such as an email address or even money to sign up. Based on the % of users who signup, we get a rough signal from the market if the value proposition is in sufficient demand to build a minimal solution. If not, pivot!

But as much as I like smoke tests, I hate premature surrender. That’s what happens when the signal we get from the market is NO, but we don’t truly grasp why.

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lean startup books

Corporate Lean Anti-Patterns: 5 Minute Video

Unlike startups, large companies have many moving parts to manage when attempting to lean new ways for creating customer value. They often adopt concepts such as lean to move faster, but sometimes spiral into corporate lean anti-patterns:

More and more enterprise scale companies are drinking the lean Kool Aid and starting to implement Lean Startup methodology. In doing so, they are failing at the most basic level.

Lean methodology is not lean startup. An MVP is not learning. A Business Model Canvas is not business model innovation. These things are just artifacts. They are workarounds. These workarounds, applied poorly and/or inappropriately, can result in some wonderful anti-patterns.

One of my favorites is that piecemeal lean-startup is just waterfall in disguise.

This was written in a previous blog post. Here's a short 5-minute video version of that conversation.


PS - In case some of you had trouble downloading content earlier this week, we fixed it!

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Startups Working with Large Companies & Minimum Viable Products

(This is a guest post by Sean Murphy, who coaches early stage technology firms. You can find Sean on Twitter, LinkedIn or on his blog.)

Startups have to take care to extract as much as they can of a larger firm’s understanding of a problem. Without this a startup can have "missing pieces" in their solution. Even when the larger company lays out the full problem and what's needed to solve it, a startup may mistakenly decide to address a subset of the problem. If the larger company supplies the residual pieces without complaint, the startup is lulled into a false sense of security until they have tried to sell their solution to other companies and have been turned down several times. I have personally experienced this several times from both sides of the table, here are a couple examples of what this looked like for startups.

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Lean Healthcare – Interview with Mark Graban

(Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare,” as a consultant, author, keynote speaker, and blogger. I reached out to him to chat about his approach to applying Lean in hospitals and healthcare organizations. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.)

Q: Lean has a long history in healthcare. What are some of the current trends and understanding of “lean” in hospitals and healthcare?

A: Some of the earliest experiments with Lean methods in healthcare were in Seattle in the late 1990s. Two of the longest-running examples of the adoption of Lean in healthcare include ThedaCare, a health system in Wisconsin, and Virginia Mason Medical Center, in Seattle, which have been using Lean as an improvement model and a management system for 12 or 13 years now. Those organizations, along with some others, have really embraced Lean as a new culture, modeling themselves after Toyota in some ways, while maintaining, of course, the special values and purpose of a hospital.

Even with those shining examples, however, far too many health systems have a limited view of Lean, thinking of it as just an improvement methodology or as a set of tools or projects. The best Lean success comes from adopting Lean as a culture and a management system... yet, we’re still hoping to see more of that in healthcare. It’s unfortunately easier for people to adopt a few new tools to use in their existing, and often dysfunctional, organizational cultures.

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Lean in Corporate Startups – Interview with Jay Badenhope

Jay Badenhope (Senior Product Manager of JustAnswer) leads product teams that experiment and build things to solve meaningful customer problems.  I reached out to him to chat about his approach to implementing lean startup in large- and mid-size companies. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn)

Q: What is the difference between running lean in a very large vs. a mid-sized company? How have you adapted for corporate startups?

A: In my experience, there is a difference but it’s not night and day. I’ve led lean product teams at Intuit and JustAnswer. Both companies have established products and business models for making money from selling those products. To paraphrase Steve Blank, a company is responsible for executing on a proven business model, unlike a startup that is seeking to establish a new business model. I’ve led product teams that were responsible for testing ideas for new business models within these two profitable companies. The main difference I’ve seen is that larger companies tend to be more conservative in supporting the existing business model and smaller companies may be hungrier to try new things.

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Fishbowl Leads

(This is a guest post by Sean Murphy, who coaches early stage technology firms. You can find Sean on Twitter, LinkedIn or on his blog.)

You are back from a tradeshow and have 400 business cards in a large pile on the table. Booth visitors had dropped them in a fish bowl you set out to request more information and win a chance at a cool device. Now the work begins - finding the good ones in the pile.

Out of the 400 cards there may be 20 or 40 who are really interested in your product. You have to find them in the pile before too much time has passed and they are on to their next problem. The good news is that a few will remember you and follow up (and a few who didn't hear who won the drawing may also call if you picked an especially valuable or hard to find device).  Most of your follow up efforts, whether by phone or E-mail or postcard or prayer will go unanswered. This is true even for early adopters who are interested but also very busy. You will need to try a few times in different ways.

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