What is Lean Product Development?

by Sean Boyce
lean product developent

Lean product development has origins rooted in manufacturing.  Principles and practices refined overtime within the manufacturing industry have been repurposed for methods of developing digital products.  The most basic description of lean development is a methodology focused on reducing waste.  Waste can be in the form of something physical (think manufacturing) or virtual (unnecessary software features).  Lean development has revolutionized many industries and those same principles are now being incorporated elsewhere such as product development.  So how do you take advantage of lean product development and incorporate lean principles into building your product?

Get Started With a Great Book

I’m partial to Running Lean by Ash Maura.  Another very popular book is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.  Both of these books focus on similar principles – lean product development.  They paint a vivid picture of the methods of lean development as they apply to your software product.  There are countless examples and comparisons to products both authors have worked on personally.  From either of these you will be a tremendous amount of useful information about where you can become more efficient and start using lean product development.  

Fully Understand the Major Lean Product Development Milestones

1) Problem/Solution Fit

The first major milestone in lean product development is achieving what is referred to as problem/solution fit.  What this means is that you’ve found a significant enough problem to build a product around and the product you wish to develop adequately solves this problem for your target customers.  This is a major milestone and a sequential step.  Without proper problem/solution fit you don’t have a product.

Uncovering proper problem/solution fit is broken down into many smaller objectives.  You will be required to perform adequate market research, customer interviews and competitor analysis.  All of these are critical steps in lean product development and will ultimately help you determine whether or not you’ve successfully achieved a proper problem/solution fit.

2) Product/Market Fit

Once you’ve identified proper problem/solution fit and you begin to gain momentum in your industry you need to prepare your product to scale.  This phase of lean product development is about determining what is referred to as product/market fit.  This step will determine just how successful your product can be.  Here you will prepare your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for a rollout to the entire industry.  Previously you may have been testing and refining your product with the help of pilot customers, but once you are in the product/market fit phase you need to test whether or not your product can support momentum at scale.  Many consider product/market fit to be the last major milestone in lean product development when determining the viability of your product to achieve sustained success.  

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As with finding proper problem/solution fit, finding proper product/market fit also involves smaller objectives.  Finding proper product/market fit will involve measuring customer success through case studies and collecting feedback.  This customer feedback should then be incorporated back into the product.  These steps are critical for truly lean product development because they not only ensure the future success of your product, but position you within your industry by raising barriers to entry for your competitors.  The tighter your feedback process is the more effective it will be toward the success of your product.

Lean product development is the only process I employ.  It has been thoroughly battle tested across industries as the most effective and efficient way to develop products.  For an in-depth dive check out either (or both) of the book recommendations above and get started right away with lean product development.

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please feel free to reach out to me at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

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