Lean Startup: Integrating Discovery and Delivery

November 30, 2014

Agile


In my post on balancing discovery and delivery, using dual-track scrum was one way to find a balance between “innovation-focussed” people with “get things done” people and to ensure you were not only focussed on delivery. Still, I wondered if there was a better way to integrate the process so the two sides work together rather than pass off “discovered” work to delivery teams.

Lean Startup exploded onto the scene in 2011 with the premise that you can shorten product development time combining business-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning. Start-ups are often pressured to quickly make their idea into something valuable for their shareholders,  so it does a reasonable job of combining discovery and delivery. Drawing from the scientific method, it encourages entrepreneurs to figure out the business/consumer problem they are solving, build a minimum viable product, gather data from their clients, learn and then iterate to improve the solution. It is effectively a continuous loop between discovery and delivery. As with all methods, there are pitfalls. Still, if you want to know if your product is heading in the right direction, you need to quickly build and test ideas with something that clients can interact with.

How does this scale beyond a small start-up? GE, a behemoth, applied the practices of Lean Startup to a recent round of appliance development. The results were impressive: half the program cost, twice the program speed, and, once released to market, selling at twice the normal sales rate. They put their minimum viable product in front of consumers and then iterated based on feedback. By version 5, they had something consumers liked. A limited manufacturing run was done for Version 6 and there are plans to release future versions every year – a significant change from releasing new products every 5 years. In the process, GE had to apply the practices in every area of their business, including supplier relations and finance, and a significant investment in coaching and education across the business.

As with all Agile practices, once you understand the mindset of iterative development, empowered teams, and frequent feedback from clients, you can apply it throughout your product development context.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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