7 Lean Product Principles

The Lean Startup movement, championed by Eric Reis is transforming how new products are built and launched. But what does it mean for teams building products and for organizations adopting this approach? Here are 7 principles that guide teams in the pursuit of building products using a test and learn iterative approach.

A strategic product roadmap guides teams

Teams are guided by a vision for the product and this is communicated through a strategic product roadmap. Teams adopt and evolve the vision by validating hypotheses with customers and stakeholders. The product vision evolves and adjusts as new information is discovered. The product owner responsible for the communicating the strategic product roadmap is embedded in the team - there’s no “handoff” between strategy and delivery, nor is there a static document.

Focus on delivering thin slices of Customer and Business value, released early and often

Teams work together to define the thin slices of Business and Customer value that can be released often. Slices should be small (weeks or months, not years) and released incrementally to enable rapid feedback.

How you define value and approach thin slices depend on where you are in the product lifecycle. For example, for new products (that haven’t been released to a customer yet and are not offered by a competitor), the focus is on learning (rather than scaling) and delivering a thin slice of the product that can be released into real customer hands for feedback. How fast you can get your product out and learning is crucial in this phase. During the early stages of defining and evolving the product, you may find unexpected uses for your product that may result in different business opportunities. The longer it takes to add “just one more feature”, the greater the chance of missing a valuable market opportunity.

There will be times when business value is in conflict with customer value. Be intentional about this decision and be ready to pivot if your hypothesis proves incorrect!

Example: dynamic product delivery wall using a hypothesis led approach

Embrace learning over following a static list of features

Adaptive learning and embracing change are fundamental to building products your customers will use and that meets business objectives. Continuous feedback, prioritization and improvement are practices that underpin lean product design. A culture of “failing fast” or “learning early” is essential to creating a learning organization that empowers autonomous teams to validate hypotheses and own the direction of the product.

Everyone is responsible for the customer experience

Regardless of role, title, or responsibility, everyone is responsible for the customer experience of the product. Customer experience goes beyond how the customer interacts with your product or what they see. Oftentimes, it is the intangible aspects that can make or break your product such as performance, security, data integrity and consistency.

Decisions are made “just in time”

The iterative nature and continuous delivery of value enables teams to work in a lean way, optimizing for the information available at the present time. As a result, decisions should be deferred until the last responsible moment to eliminate waste in upfront analysis.

Teams are accountable for outcomes, not just delivery of features

Cross-functional, autonomous teams are assembled based on complementary, well-rounded skills and typically include people with experience in product, analysis, user experience and design, agile development, testing, security, continuous integration, continuous delivery, compliance and regulation. Teams are accountable and empowered to think and act creatively to come up with solutions to a problem or opportunity, and own an outcome. Teams deliver value, not features, story points or story cards.

Decisions are backed by data, not the loudest voice in the room (or the highest paid person in the room)

Available data, both qualitative and quantitative, should be used to facilitate decisions. When there is an unclear direction, the focus should be on obtaining “just enough data” to validate a hypothesis. In addition, teams must have clear communication and feedback loops internally to obtain input from stakeholders and create a unified direction to move forward.

Find out more by reading our ebook The Lean Product Guide: A Practitioner's Guide to Building Viable Products Customers Love.