Tag Archive | lean

Why Why Why Why Why – The Five Whys?

why why why why why five whys

Overview

We just finished listening to Mark Graban’s interview with Lean Startup author Eris Ries. The two talk about Taiichi Ohno’s influence on their lean methodologies.

Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which later became Lean Manufacturing. His written experiences at Toyota heavily influenced the manufacturing industries across the globe.

The two agree that Ohno’s books may lack the western style instruction many readers seek out however do praise the author on his alternative approach to manufacturing and it’s powerful application across all industries.

What stood out from the interview was Eric’s impressions of Ohno’s approach to root cause analysis – the five whys. The approach is a simplistic but powerful method of solving problems. Let us take a look…

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The “5 Whys” Problem Solving Approach

Essentially the five whys ask why until the cause of the problem is identified. This leads to the ultimate question – How do we fix this problem once and for all? You can keep asking why until you drive out all issues.

Here is an example (Wikipedia):

The Problem: The vehicle will not start.

First Why? Why? – The battery is dead.
Second Why? Why? – The alternator is not functioning.
Third Why? Why? – The alternator belt has broken.
Fourth Why? Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced.
Fifth Why? Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule.
Sixth Why? Why? – Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle.

Often we overlook the cause of problems; or shy away from asking the simple questions. Sometimes going back to basics can solve the most complex questions.

Did this help? Let us know.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
+ Helpful Startup Tools For Entrepreneurs

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Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

The concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has grown in popularity, mostly due to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodologies. Ries writes:

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

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How much or how little is “minimum”?

There is some contention on how much or how little constitutes “minimum”. Too much and you risk investing too much time and effort in building an obsolete product. Too little and you cannot conclusively gather meaningful results.

The right place is probably half-way in the middle. Your minimum product should allow the maximum amount of learning, with the least amount of effort. Balance the costs and benefits.

Building your “mini” MVP

The common flaw of the average entrepreneur is having too many ideas and not being able to execute all or any of these concepts. We were thinking that entrepreneurs should utilise the most painless and quick mechanisms for testing ideas.

Two well known stories come to mind:

1) GroupOn – While the founders spent time with various customer development experiments, it was two cheap and dirty methods that tested their ideas. The first was a simple blog (ThePoint) that attracted like minded people to create promotional campaigns. The second was offering pizza coupons posted on an apartment building communal bulletin board.

2) Drop Box – A short video showing the problem, product and solution gained mass interest. The interest justified investing the time and effort to build the product.

Two quick and extremely simple techniques to get an idea to the market.

Closing

Lean startup and the minimum viable product concepts encourage entrepreneurs to not waste time building products customers do not want. Existing startups have shown that a minimum viable product can be as simple as a landing page. Therefore anyone should be able to quickly and easily build a mini MVP to validate their ideas (no matter how basic). What are you waiting for?

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day
+ The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds Minimum Viable Product in Two Days?
+ How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken?
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

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The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank

lean startup customer development steve blak feedback loop

tl;dr Steve Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build Lean Startup. The Lean Launchpad classes offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn how to apply customer development and lean startup concepts to testing and building their business ideas.

The History of Lean Startup

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur who now spends his time teaching entrepreneurship to students. His early writings on customer development (The Four Steps to the Epiphany) have evolved into the Lean Launchpad. The Lean Launchpad provides entrepenuers with an online, interactive envrionment to learn all that is needed to understand and apply the lean startup methodologies.

In Blank’s most recent blog post he reiterates his discovery and journey.

The Journey

Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build lean startup. They found that the traditional business tools did not apply to startups.

+ Startups are different – Ten years ago he started thinking about why startups are different from existing companies. He questioned: Are business plans suitable for startups? Is execution all that matters?

+ Business models first, business plans later – Blank thought that startups needed business models before business plans. This lead him to come up with “customer development” – the formal methodology to search for a business model.

+ Business models before execution – He believed that Customer Development needed traditional product management. This process is documented in Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany.

+ Lean Startup and Eric Ries – In 2003 Blank was approached to teach a class in Customer Development at Haas Business School. He insisted that Eric Ries be in the class. (Blank had an investment in Ries’s IMVU business.) Ries argued that the traditional product management and waterfall development should be replaced by agile development. This approach was named “Lean Startup”.

+ Standardising the Business Model – Until now the structure of the business model remained vague. However Alexander Osterwalder wrote Business Model Generation that allowed entrepreneurs to build an operating plan around their search for a business. The business model canvas simplified the planning process and pressed entrepreneurs for real answers to tough questions.

+ Testing the theory – The startup methodology remained scientific theory until the National Science Foundation approached Blank to teach the concepts to a group of scientists. They wanted to apply the theory to commercialising their basic research. This triggered the rollout of the Lean Launchpad course. Now real entrepreneurs are applying the theory to real startup scenarios.

Conclusion

Blank has turned building a startup into a science. His publications and theories have encouraged many entrepreneurs to think more about their business before leaping into the abyss. While some may argue entrepreneurship is not a science that can be taught, the Lean Launchpad provides an intelligent framework for those looking for some direction and stability in their search for the next big business.

Links:
+ Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
+ Extracts from The Four Steps to the Epiphany (pdf)

Image Credit: The Lean Startup

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

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Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

The real people behind eLance…

Rob Fitzpatrick, a London based tech entrepreneur is the latest startup industrialist sharing all as he stumbles through his very own bootstrap adventure. Via his 10k GBP Bootstrap Challenge Rob pledges to earn income from things he has built.

He writes:

“I want my income to come from things I’ve built… so I’m betting £10k that I can build a portfolio of products which is profitable enough to live off before running out of money… The challenge continues in public until I’ve either quintupled my money or have lost it all… ”

This is a very ambitious but noble challenge and aims at the heart of most (if not all) entrepreneurs. We all want to build something ourselves and ensure it’s profitable. We are not driven solely by money, but profit means viability. We are not driven by selfishness, but by passion.

To succeed he will need focus and perseverance – the two likely characteristics he probably hopes the public platform will help drive out. It is certainly one way to push yourself to pursue your startup.

There are many other entrepreneurs who share their experiences. Some in retrospect but others in real time while it happens. It reflects the startup communities openness and typically serves as a warning light for beginners of what to avoid. Many successful stories usually highlight the many failures along the way.

For more on ‘learning from others’ check out one of our earlier posts. Also, keep up with the Bootstrap Challenge at the links below.

Good luck Rob and all other bootstrappers.

Links:
The 10k GBP Bootstrap Challenge
The Startup Toolkit

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You might also enjoy:
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Lessons Learned From A Hacker News Traffic Spike

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

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Need Startup Advice? – Just Ask Online

Expert Knowledge is The Next Big Thing

We are big fans of online expert sites. Quora, Askolo, Stack Exchange and many more are all part of a trend towards matching experts to inquisitive minds. These platforms are essentially allowing subject matter experts to sell their knowledge to others. Why not?

A Great Resource For Finding Expert Answers

One our favourite expert portals is Sporuter. It is a fantastic resource for “Expert Answers for Your Startup Questions”. It gives you direct access to startup gurus like Eric Ries, Dan Martell, Hiten Shah, Ash Maurya. The list of valuable contributors goes on and on.

Sharing Some Invaluable Answers

We thought we would share some of the gems we have found. This is only a handful. Check out more at Sporuter. Drop us a line and share your favourities!


Eric Ries (Entrepreneur, author of The Lean Startup):

Q. There has been some talk lately that MVPs are coming out that are not quite up to even MVP standards. How do you set the bar for an MVP?

A. MVP is all about what you’re trying to learn. If it tests your hypothesis, do it. But don’t go talking to the press about it, that’s way too soon.


Joe Stump (Founder):

Q. In what areas have you failed in your business? What lessons did you learn from them? How did they create more opportunities and insights for you?

I’d say the top two things that caused major issues at SimpleGeo early on was growing the team too quickly and attempting to solve too many of our customers’ problems at once…


Dan Martell (Founder and Angel Investor):

Q. What is the best place to look for people to work with on a startup idea? startup meetups? the one’s I’ve been to seem to be all about “networking”, but when it comes to actually doing real work people seem to be reluctant.

A. Founder Dating, Startup Weekend, Technical User Groups and Meetups. If you create an online brand using Twitter / Blog /etc and tweet at people – you’ll eventually make friends with them over the internet.


Ash Maurya (Entrepreneur, Foodie, Dad):

Q. While my company is in stealth mode, what is the best way to recruit your first group of “testers” to help you test your product?

A. I have a problem with stealth-mode. What are you hiding from?

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day


(Source: Go Comics)

Can You Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day? Maybe…

We just finished listening to a Stack Exchange Podcast featuring Eric Ries (Lean Startup) as a guest. During the show Ries explained the importance of getting an idea out to the market to validate your assumptions and avoid wasting time building the wrong product.

This touches on his minimum viable product (MVP) concept that he defines as:

“That version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

Rob Kelly simplifies it even more by breaking down the individual components as follows:

Minimum – There is usually just one or two core problems that excellent products are trying to solve.
Viable – What makes a product viable? Will people use it? Will someone pay for it?
Product – Anything that generates value.

The viable component is crucial to the process. One must distinguish between Minimum Viable Product and Minimum Product.

SPVG define minimal product as the “smallest possible product that actually works”.

They go on further to remind us that this is “often a long way from minimum viable product which not only works, but is something that people actually choose to buy and use”.

One example Ries cites is GroupOn. GroupOn started as ‘The Point’ on a WordPress blog. It was only when Groupon sold its first deal—two pizzas for the price of one in October 2008 that they realised they were onto a good idea (WSJ).

They needed to put a real life product (a MVP) out into the market to discover if customers would take the bait. The customers liked it and all it took was a basic landing page and a bit of hard work.

Neil Patel describes how Dropbox “started with a boring 3 minute video for their minimum viable product. It looks like a normal product demonstration. And that’s all it is. There is no code. When they released the video online, however, their waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 overnight!”

These examples show how small efforts can yield some powerful information. Information that can be used to test your hypothesis and determine where to spend your next efforts.

Ash Mauyra shares his experiences of building his own MVP. He highlights that a landing page is not enough. You need to use the MVP to drive out customer reactions and test your hypothesis (ie will customers buy this product?). It is more about learning than guessing.

This got us thinking on how you go about building your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and if you could construct something quickly. Could you build your MVP in a day? What could you learn?

So think about adding a video to your website or building a WordPress blog to showcase your MVP. Ask your visitors for feedback and determine where you need to spend your time. Did this experiment stop you from wasting your energies on building the wrong product?

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business

Scott Allison (@Scott_Allison), a new contributor to Forbes states in a recent article titled Startup Success: Throw Away Your Business Books “that a startup is not the same as a new start business”.

He differentiates between the two by writing:

A startup business – lacks a repeatable and scalable business model and lacks certainty.

A traditional business – proven many times before so you can take advantage of that information, research and learning which has been perfected, potentially over hundreds of years.

If you are not doing something new, then it is not a startup! You cannot apply all traditional business concepts before launching your startup product, primarily due to the level of uncertainty and the many unknowns.

This raises some interesting challenges to a startup, embarking on creating something totally new….

What existing tools and techniques are available? What path can be followed? How do you know if you are going down the right track?

This uncertainty explains the popularity in the Lean Startup movement and the scientific method to building a startup from the idea to launch. A good summary of the lean approach can be found on the Smallbiztrends website.

It states that “a startup must be agile and operate in a constant feedback loop”. This is in contrast to the traditional ‘linear’ progression of a traditional business.

Are you operating a traditional business or a startup business? Are you applying a traditional or lean approach to launching your idea?

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo

UPDATE: Follow up post is now available here.

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When you enter the realm of startups you discover the massive amount of terminology being thrown around. This is even more so in technology where acronyms and techno-slang are commonplace. Therefore we have decided to compile a short list of common words to help out.

If you don’t know an Angel from a Incubator, or a lean startup from a bootstrap, then these postings will probably help.

If you have some suggestions or corrections then drop us a line. As always we love to hear from you guys.

We will elaborate on the below in later posts.

Current work in progress:

Agile
Angel
Burn Rate
Bootstrap
Business Plan
Business Model
Customer Development Model
Disruption
Elevator Pitch
Entrepreneur
Equity
Incubator
Intraprenuer
Lean Startup
Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
Pivot
Venture Capital (VC)

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You might also enjoy:
+ Lessons Learned From A Hacker News Traffic Spike
+ Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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