Minimum Viable Work Product

I love the concept of the Lean Startup.  But does the philosophy work for those of us who work for larger corporations or who are entrepreneurs?

I won’t get started on my opinions on most Product Management and Product Marketing Management types who don’t get “lean.”  A lot of them think “lean” means I ask for “only” $300K in funding to build the prototype.  There’s a rant on that coming at some point, I think.

But the answer is that Lean can work for the rest of us.  Let’s look at one concept–Minimum Viable Product–and just tweak it to be Minimum Viable Work Product (MVWP).  If we all adopted the concept of MVWP, we’d be doing a lot less pointless work and be accomplishing a lot more.  Maybe even getting some of those Product Management and Marketing folks to understand the error of their ways. (Oh, there’s a rant coming….)

Why should we embrace MVWP?  Because the pursuit of perfection, and even excellence, kills speed.  Creating speed in the racing world is relatively easy, per Colin Chapman.  “Add lightness” he said.

MVWP “adds lightness” to our daily activities, giving us more time to put our ideas into the place where value and profit is created–the market.  But what does MWVP look like?  Here’s a couple of thoughts:

  1. Know the objective.  Notice I said objective in the singular.  Don’t focus on a laundry list of 10 things you want to accomplish with a meeting with the COO.  Get one good thing you can action and take to market, call it a win and get going.  You can’t do 10 things at a time or quickly anyway.
  2. Know the base level of execution. How much do you need to do for your MVWP to achieve your objective?  Once you understand it, do 70-80% of it and no more.  The pitch to the COO has to be good and clear.  Not Jobsian in perfection. The Powerpoint–if Heaven forbid you need one–has to do the job but no better.
  3. Don’t sell past the close.  Half the time I’m in a meeting, the person presenting their MVWP wants to be Columbo.  “Oh, and one more thing…”  Arrrgh.  No!  Did your MVWP achieve your objective in the first 2 minutes?  Then walk out and get going.
  4. Don’t hesitate to iterate.  You don’t have just one chance with the big, scary decision maker.  Iterate.  If the MVWP doesn’t get the objective done, look at the data and update it.  That’s what Agile is all about.  And if you work for a company where you only get one chance to pitch your idea?  Quit.  They’re too stupid to deserve you and will be passed by more agile competitors eventually anyway.
Takeaway.  Don’t be perfect in your in-office thinking or planning.  Only create MVWP that gets you in front of the market as quickly as possible. Be agile, iterate, ship, win.
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