Blog Post: What Do You Mean By ‘Lean’?

Much like XP and Agile, there is a disparity of information involved with describing what exactly people mean when they say their shop is “lean”. While the definition itself may be simple to pass along to the uninitiated, beginning the process can be a huge mess of confusion.

Lean is self-descriptive, but not indicative of it’s true meaning.

When you hear a designer or engineer express affinity for Lean, it could be easy to take it as a set of rules with no rules. Process is never thrown out the window in successful projects. It’s an easy way for a great idea to turn on it’s head without someone driving the team in a direction.

Project and product managers would do well to examine the core elements of Lean and try them out for your next release. As detailed in this post by UX Matters, an easy set of steps will go a long way to ensure success of execution:

  • Your project must have a mission statement. This not only declares your intentions, but helps define for the customers how success will be achieved.
  • At the heart of your mission statement is a core set of executables that needs to be laid out easily for the team to break up into development iterations. This is your Minimum Viable Product. Think of it as the test of your mission statement’s hypothesis.
  • To execute the MVP, you must produce and test your hypothesis many times. The sooner you can get an element in front of a user to validate the concept the better. 
  • Feedback loops are paramount to success. Gather it through several methods for a variety of data you can use to learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to pivot as soon as you see an idea isn’t working. Fail fast. The question is asked all the time, “how do I know it isn’t working?” Your users will tell you. See the previous point. If you are doing your job you will know how well delivery is going.

These executables can happen in a variety of orders, or even done in parallel. You can’t be afraid to continuously work to refine your mission statement as your test of that hypothesis is carried out.

Of course, this goes to the point of transparency. Your customers need it so they can understand shorter iterations. They see what you are working on in various stages, opening the doors for more consistent and open feedback. 

Let me know how this works out for you. Can’t wait to see how it works out!


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