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Business Consulting For The 21st Century Via A Holistic & Intelligent Approach

An introduction to Lean product development (continued)

FYI => Yesterday I shared a link on Lean, a product development methodology. Author Laurence McCahill replied to my comment. This is my reply to him. I believe it’s worth sharing.

My value add (i.e., left another comment)…

Good morning Laurence.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. It’s Monday and I’ve got a full week ahead of me so please pardon my brevity. Sunday’s are a whole other story, obviously.

You said:

“…but my point was that barriers to entry are now low, and if you’re smart you can hack together a product without building it in full first (with all the risk associated with that). If you validate the idea then you’ll need to refine and possibly re-build, but this has worked for many other products over the years (Foursquare, GroupOn etc)…”

1) Yes, the barriers to entry are low. Unfortunately, that’s true *for everyone*. It in turn translates into clutter. It also translates in to “tryer fatigue”. There are two sides to every coin. Less means more is the often conveniently overlooked side of low barrier to entry. The realities of business are often similar to a balloon. Squeeze one end and something only pops out somewhere else. My point is, you might get there faster/cheaper but the queue for people’s attention is going to entail a heftier marketing effort and perhaps the risk of the half-baked idea not getting noticed.

2) Perhaps I’m parsing your ideas too tightly but you seem to be implying that lean equates to smart and no risk. Pardon me but that’s a pretty dangerous idea to spread. Again, I would like to point out there are two sides to every coin. Getting the product to market sooner could be just as dangerous in a tryer fatigue, it’s me-too and/or half-baked sorta way. See my previous point about the queue for attention. Is there not risk involved in that? Have you every tried to market something that isn’t well defined?

3) To be fair, how about some examples of where lean has not worked? Foursquare (i.e, deep pockets)? GroupOn (i.e., more deep pockets)? To attribute their success to lean is again misleading. What they had is a strong and (close to) infinite – when compare to most – source of investor backing. That not only means top shelf resources but top shelf string pulling (i.e., phone calls to generate buzz, press releases that actually get read and talked about, etc.). My point is these influences have little if anything to do with lean.

Given your examples I stand behind my assertion that lean is a rare use case. “We’re going to fail and keep failing until we get it right” does not fit well with most entrepreneurs and more importantly their budgets and backers.

I’m not against lean.

However, the fact remains, the faster you drive in heavy traffic the more likely you are to miss a critical turn, or crash & burn. From a strict development perspective lean makes perfect sense. I’m on board. However, the reality is business/products don’t exist in the lab. Their reality is much more complex and to me it sounds like you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. That might work. But you’re not mentioning that Paul is now poor and empty handed. And that when this happens there’s always risk in Paul wanting his money back, yes?

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