Failing Better to Win Sooner

I interviewed some time ago for what would be my third role in product management in the custom app development space.  This form of “consulting” means I have to be a product visionary on behalf of someone else.  They have ideas and money, we have implementation practices and great engineers.  This interview, like in the pre-sales process of my previous two companies, required I take a backlog, prioritize it, define the Lean Startup -style MVP, and justify the release plan for future enhancements.

Obviously, I have asked, or been asked, in the hundreds-of-times range, “what is the Minimum Viable Product?” and frequently the answer is “all of it”. 

As the bard said, Therein lies the rub. 

The more important question is – “Minimally viable for what?”

I have yet to see a project plan or feature list that included valid success criteria, or any definition of how user stories should be prioritized, or features that would support cohort analysis or A/B testing.  Once, I even heard a CEO speaking of the immense importance of measurable success, only to have the head of operations and the head of sales immediately undermine him with the claim that staying under budget and releasing on schedule were okay success metrics – and the CEO nodded!

The Lean Startup has a clear definition of what the MVP must be minimally viable for: tuning the growth engine that keeps the business alive. 

That means the MVP builds a baseline for testing your hypotheses. 

Unfortunately, what is really missing is the lack of vision and discipline needed to do this.  No matter what you are building, it either solves a problem that makes people want it or it doesn’t. Without the ability to know if each feature was the right feature, the product is not viable and your business is not sustainable, and no amount of minimalism is sufficiently minimal – you’re still just wasting money. 

So in my spare time, as my pet project, I’ll show you how to do it.  How lean is my startup going to be?  $0 invested.  My first product solves a real pain that I have. I know that the demand for this pain to be solved is increasing. I would solve this pain even I was the only user

Enjoy the ride. 

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