A systematic process for iterating from Plan A to a plan that works.
I (and Martin) have attended to Running Lean Workshop, before the Startup Weekend Brussels 2nd edition. I follow Ash Maurya's blog since a few months, after reading about the existence of the lean startup concept. The contents he usually authors are very useful and precise. For instance, thanks to his post "The Achilles Heel of Customer Development", I've got enough material to start customer interviews. After several ones, I've learned how to refine the way I lead problem interview and how to correctly listen to an user or a customer. Attending a workshop by himself shouldn't be a bad thing. It was a great opportunity. During the workshop, he mainly presented the concept of running lean. He did this with a clear structure, illustration, advices and interactions with the audience. The workshop finished with a practical case coming from one of the attendants, the founder of mobilosoft. In the following, I'll summarize what I've remembered from and some personal thoughts.
The concept of lean consists in finding a path to a working plan before running out of resources. This methodology allows you to iterate over a business model according to new input collected. Considering some facts, it is not a bad thing to have one to follow: 9 products among 10 fail. But the risk is not in the product but in the market and customers. You have to gather information from there, you have to work there. Otherwise, you're just out of the real world. This is very similar to the effectuation concept. This concept states that successful entrepreneurs adopt the same kind of approach to build a business: you find a path from a starting point defined by who you are, who you can reach and what you have. The path is then mean driven and lead to a goal you don't necessary know in advance. It is then built thanks to interactions with the market and the customers, in another words the real world.
Running lean is defined by Ash as the composition of three other methodologies:
- Customer Development by Steve Blank: get out of the building.
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries: iterate enough before out of money, a mix between Agile project management, Extreme Programming and Lean Production management.
- Bootstrapping by Bijoy Goswami: right action, right time.
Your product is not the product, it is the business model.
The business model is a description of your current plan. But how to represent it without writing a whole business plan? You can use the Business Model Canvas (and edit online thanks to Bemco) or a Ash's variation, the Lean Canvas. In order to follow him during the workshop, Ash gave us an access to his web online editor of Lean Canvas.
The methodology of Running Lean could be summarized as following:
- define an initial set of several variations of a business model
- skim some of them according your priority
- test the risk with customers interviews, A/B testing, marketing experiment, prototyping
- remove variations according tests
- halt if everything is validated or go back to 3.
- select the best one
You can then apply your working plan in a given market segment, and growth. It is very important to validate learning before growing. Otherwise, you will grow on bad foundations. What is very interesting, in my opinion, is the way to test and validate. As a former scientist, it is very familiar. You formulate testable hypothesis, and you run an experiment to reject or accept it. In case of acceptation, you have validated your learning. For instance, is my blog a good channel to lead people to my product B? You can formulate this by testing if you get more than 20 new visitors from your blog on your product landing page after having talked about it on your blog.
I do not go deeper in the topic and invite you to watch the workshop video or to read his book "Running Lean". It was an interesting learning for me and an opportunity to meet Ash, a calm and kind person with sharp advices and interesting experiences. If you can attend to one of his workshops, do it.