It’s easy to blame project failures or deficiencies on Lean methodology. However, it is more likely that there are inherent flaws in the application of Lean which have a greater bearing on outcomes. Whether yours is a financial or legal firm, a construction or contracting business, a non-profit, or a consumer services business such as retail, a lack of time, organizational commitment, conceptual honesty, structure and investment are just some of the factors that can derail Lean projects. In the end, wasting an opportunity to seriously leverage the value of a well-structured Lean project is a hallmark of failed initiatives.
The purpose of Lean is to enable proof of a concept’s market value prior to major investment. The assumption at the very heart of Lean is that at least some elements of the concept’s core value proposition will be conveyed correctly to the market in the initial Lean Minimal Viable Product (MVP) release. The misunderstanding by most entrepreneurs and corporate product owners is that Lean means “cheap test.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Lean actually means “the least expensive test that is a valid test.”
User experience: A poorly designed user experience can compromise the basic adoptability characteristics and may yield false negatives.
Incomplete value proposition: If there is not a cohesive set of features that is worth the users’ time, it doesn’t matter if you have a few features beautifully built. So if users won’t come or they won’t stay, it’s not because the concept is bad, it’s because the concept was not actually realized for them.
Quality: If you have a beautiful user experience and a feature set that conveys concept value, but the software is flawed, users will distrust the software and ultimately the parent company, and abandon the product.
Notice that none of the scenarios above disprove the business concept. They are false negatives created by poor execution within Lean.
Define your Lean MVP as a product that is ready to reliably show off your concept in a compelling way to its intended audience. Make sure it includes intelligent user experience and design, provides value to your potential users and has gone through strict quality control before users are exposed to it.
Be prepared to spend money. A shortsighted cost reduction strategy can starve any Lean project regardless of its veracity.
Performing user research to define your audience’s needs, and apply that data to user experience and visual design to meet those needs.
Building enough of the system to form at least one complete value proposition.
Quality assurance testing to assure robustness.
What you will get out of this approach is a fair proof of concept, ideas for further product development, and savings vs. a full launch. What you won’t get is a feeling that Lean equals “cheap.” This is what valid Lean looks like.
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