The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® Scrum Master Certification program.
Both Lean and MVP are Agile concepts aimed at optimally producing and creating the optimal product. The purpose of both ideas is to optimize costs and waste, as well as to satisfy the customer and user needs.
- What is Lean?
- The search for perfection through Kaizen.
- What is MVP
What is Lean?
Lean thinking is a business idea that aims to provide a way of thinking about organizing human activities to provide more benefits while eliminating waste.
Lean thinking comes from Toyota Motor Company, which went from being a bankrupt Japanese carmaker business in the early 1950s to becoming the dominant global manufacturer it is today. At every stage of its expansion, Toyota is targeting new markets for products that are considered relatively unattractive. The organization avoids standard practices and thus seeks to increase the value of its operations and investments.
The company has applied the practice of appointing a unique group of elders (Sensei) and coordinators (teachers from Japan), dedicated to helping the company’s managers to think differently.
Toyota’s training focuses on developing people’s thinking skills, not forcing them to perform specialized tasks, and use standard practices, tools, and procedures.
These “sensei” have caused managers to look at their jobs differently.
Some of their teachings are focused on the following topics:
You go and see the working conditions first hand and discover the facts for yourself instead of relying on reports and meetings in the boardroom.
The workplace is where real people deliver real value. It should be evident that managers support and respect their employees for adding value to the organization through their ideas and initiatives.
The imposition of the idea that customer satisfaction is paramount is embedded in every step of the company’s process. You have to stop at every problematic part, analyze it and get to the point where you and everyone in the team do not let it be the reason for a defective product and do not accept defective work. The work process stops when things go wrong.
Understanding the cycle time and creating a rhythm. This “rhythm”, whether it is for the production of automobiles or software projects, leads to the creation of stable value flows, where stable teams work on a stable set of products in stable environments and with stable processes.
Reduction in production size. Every traditional business has strong desires for a large amount of work produced. High volume production can lead to waste.
Lean thinking is trying to optimize the flow of work to meet current demand, not future demand.
By reducing time and difficulty in our work, it is possible to get closer to perfect results. In this way, we can dramatically minimize the overall spendings of our business by reducing the need for additional costs for outsourcing, fees, procedures, materials, equipment, and more.
Preview work and processes through Kanban. As much as a manager or an operational officer is experienced, process failures always occur. That is why, visualizing tasks, jobs, and processes through Kanban can make apparent work issues and greatly help everyone.
The search for perfection through Kaizen.
The old Sensei argued that it was not of the highest importance to use tools and standards for each process or activity but to develop the spirit of each employee.
Perfection is not achieved through better, smarter systems or characters, but by a desire to improve performance step by step together.
Kaizen’s practice is what creates deep and reasonably productive thinking in people’s minds and ultimately leads to complete transformation. Practicing Kaizen on an organizational level increases collective and self-confidence so the organization can face more significant challenges and solve problems.
What is MVP
MVP stands for “Minimum viable product”. A minimum viable product has sufficient functionality that satisfies early adopters who provide feedback on its future development.
MVP is not rushing to do everything
When you create an MVP this means that you are more focused on the essential concepts initially instead of rushing to implement every single thing you or your managers have decided, which can affect the product negatively.
Providing feedback on MVP
Providing feedback means that when you have a minimal product, you will be able to see the reaction of your users and customers. Do they like your product? Is it useful for them or not? On this basis, you continue your research and work.
Gathering initial information about your MVP is often less expensive than developing a multi-function product, which increases the cost and risk in the event of failure.
A minimum viable product has enough basic features (or functionalities) for effective initial product launch and nothing more.
Developers usually focus on a group of potential customers - such as early adopters, who are thought to “forgive” more minor issues, are more likely to give feedback and can understand the product’s vision from its early stages.
This strategy aims to avoid creating features that customers do not want anyway.
MVP is recreated in cycles
MVP is recreated in cycles and iterations by generating ideas, prototyping, collecting data, analyzing, and learning from the results so far.
The goal is to minimize the total time spent in an iteration. The process is repeated until the desired product is obtained or until it is considered unsustainable.
The following issues related to chapter "Lean and MVP" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of June 8, 2023, 2:31 pm
|0||MVP is not rushing to do everything||60 sec||SM, PO|
|1||The search for perfection through Kaizen.||60 sec||SM, PO|
|2||What is Lean?||60 sec||SM, PO|
|3||Lean thinking||60 sec||SM, PO|
|4||Providing feedback on MVP||60 sec||SM, PO|
|5||MVP is recreated in cycles||60 sec||SM, PO|
|6||What is MVP||60 sec||SM, PO|
Comments from the BVOP™ community on "Lean and MVP"
Lean is a management approach that directs and limits the cost of production resources solely in achieving goals that create added value for the end customer. To be implemented as an approach in production, everyone must change their way of thinking. This way of thinking we call Lean Thinking.
Companies often waste resources
Companies often waste resources to achieve goals that do not create added value. Thus, they suffer losses, which are reflected in low productivity, increased cost, and unstable quality. This complicates the management system and it makes mistakes, which leads to more losses and more problems with productivity, cost, and quality. Instead of creating added value for the customer, organizations struggle with problems that may be challenging but do not make the product more marketable.
Lean analyzes what we need to do for the client
Lean analyzes what we need to do for the client. Resource costs are divided into two groups - useful costs that add value to the customer and unnecessary costs that prevent value-added. These are the so-called "Surplus losses". Lean's goal is to uncover them and eliminate them, or at least limit them to reasonable levels.
The seven wastes of Lean are:
MVP (minimum viable product) in the right way
Minimum Viable Product is a product with enough functionality to satisfy early customers of the product and provide feedback on future product development. Additional functionalities and ideas are not implemented at the beginning of development.
The MVP tests hypotheses and checks the viability of the product - how valuable and sought after it will be on the market.
The results of the MVP testing and the feedback from the target audience help to understand whether the project is worth continuing, what changes need to be made in the strategy, and what needs to be left as it has already been created.
The MVP approach begins in the early stages of product development. Our idea may seem unique only in our head, so we do not need to immediately invest a lot of money in development. It is better to start with low costs and careful analysis of consumer demand. After the launch of the MVP, we will determine the demand and find out if we are developing the project in the right direction.
The most valuable thing about MVP is gathering valuable information from early users. The end-user is the one who will tell about the correct implementation of the project. When we use the collected data we have the opportunity to plan future updates to prioritize tasks. Read more: Product Backlog Prioritization.
How to create an MVP?
Once we have understood in theory what a minimally viable product is, we need to look at the practical part. To get a good result, the work must be broken down into small iterations. We need to define the goals for the team and the tasks for each member of the team. But above all, the team must understand the general principles of work and product creation.
Defining the basic principles and techniques of MVP
It is a good idea to organize a general meeting of the team that will participate in the development of the MVP. We need to make sure that all team members understand why an MVP approach is needed. The vision of the product is discussed and the first high-level plan for further work is built.
Important topics for discussion with the team during the first meeting:
How to use minimum resources?
A minimum of time and effort must be spent on the MVP. The team needs to figure out how to spend less money while effectively testing the business idea. As a rule, the discussion on this issue helps to select the ideas that can be implemented at the initial stage of product development.
How to interact with consumers?
One of the main goals of the MVP is:
- Hypothesis testing
- Analyze demand and
- Product balance
Reviews from the first users of the product
In order not to miss important information, all channels for interaction with the target audience must be planned.
How to use the first sales of the product?
The first sales of the product will provide the means to continue product development and will show whether consumers are interested in the concept.
Defining the problems that the MVP will solve
Once the basic principles of MVP have been defined, answer the question:
"What problem does the product solve?". Describe the value of the product in a few sentences.
Finding the target audience
A common mistake made by some teams is that they believe that their project solves the problems of a large audience. This approach dramatically increases the likelihood of failure.
Focus on a specific target audience. Create an account for a customer who will buy your product. Describe his gender, age, social status, income, needs, habits, hobbies.
Identify the main competitors
You need to take enough time to define your competitors. Good luck if your idea is still unique. If your product is not unique then you need to solve the following problems:
Gather as much information as possible about your main competitors. Analyze the first three players in the market. Study the history of their development and look for what products they offer. Learn about competitive advantages and appreciate the opportunity to offer something better.
Determine the market shares of the main competitors. Examine the activities of the companies. Define their strategies, sales volumes. Calculate profitability. This will let you know how successful they are and how you can get ahead of them. And most importantly, how many resources you will need.
Investigate primary sources of information. Everything that competitors publish about their activities is the main source of data. Check out their official websites, presentations, advertising campaigns. This will help you understand the activities of competitors and give new ideas for product development.
Investigate secondary sources of information. News, videos, reviews, interviews, etc. Explore the media and independent sites.
Attend events where your competitors present their products or services (conferences, exhibitions, and any other appropriate venues).
Create a user flow
User flow is created to understand what the user is doing when interacting with your product, what the audience's requirements are for content, design, interface, etc.
The user flow card must be adjusted after receiving feedback from the first customers. They will tell you what is good and what is bad. Based on this, adjust the card so that the end-user gets what he wants.
Create a list of product features
Once the main user interactions with the product have been identified, the specific functions must be described. For convenience, a special map can be made: interactions and functions. Think about what needs to be done to ensure good interaction. Real users can provide objective information based on their experience.
Then prioritize all ideas. The most popular (which are used most often) are placed at the top of the list, the rarely used - at the end.
Define the features of the MVP (scope)
At this stage, the functionality of the MVP must be determined or, in other words, the volume of the minimum viable product must be planned. First, define a few basic functions without which the project cannot exist at all. This is the "base" or the smallest usable version of the product.
In most cases, this "basis" of the MVP is complemented by various additional useful features. It is necessary to define the basic and non-essential functions that are needed now and that can be improved later in the project development process.
Choose the most appropriate method for the management and development of MVP
When you are ready to start (the idea, tasks, goals, and scope of the MVP are defined), it remains to choose a management method to achieve maximum efficiency and adherence to the established development schedule. These can be Lean, Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming.
This stage is one of the most important because you can have a very good idea, develop a quality concept, gather a team of highly qualified specialists, but if you choose the wrong management model, forget about success. So think carefully about which system to work with when implementing this or that product.
Do alpha and beta testing
Use short iterations (sprints) to test your MVP: Alpha and Beta testing. Alpha testing - internal stage, after you have completed the development, use the product within the team for several days. If all goes well, start Beta testing - an external stage - give access to the product to the first users.
After the first Beta testing, collect opinions, visit statistics, behavioral analyzes, and analyze the entire data set. This way you will know what needs to be improved, what can be removed, and what new needs to be added urgently.
Lean and MVP are Agile concepts that aim to optimize product production while reducing costs and waste, and meeting customer needs. Lean thinking comes from Toyota, which transformed from a bankrupt Japanese carmaker to a global manufacturer by avoiding standard practices and appointing a unique group of elders and coordinators to help managers think differently.
Toyota has a unique group of elders and coordinators called "Sensei" who help managers think differently. The focus is on developing thinking skills rather than specialized tasks and using standard practices. The Sensei encourages managers to visit the workplace to see conditions firsthand and respect employees' ideas and initiatives.
Customer satisfaction is crucial for the company and is included in every step of the process. The team must analyze problematic areas and prevent defects. The work process stops when issues arise. Creating a stable rhythm leads to stable value flows and teams working on a set of products in a stable environment. High-volume production can lead to waste.
Lean thinking aims to optimize work flow for current demand, not future demand. This can lead to better results and cost savings by reducing outsourcing, fees, procedures, materials, and equipment. Kanban can help visualize tasks and identify work issues.
Kaizen is the search for perfection. The old Sensei believed that developing the spirit of each employee was more important than using tools and standards. Perfection is achieved by improving performance step by step together, not through better systems or characters. Practicing Kaizen leads to complete transformation and increases collective and self-confidence in an organization.
Minimum viable product
MVP means "Minimum viable product". It satisfies early adopters who give feedback on future development. MVP focuses on essential concepts initially instead of rushing to implement everything, which can negatively affect the product.
Feedback on MVP is crucial as it helps in understanding the reaction of users and customers towards a minimal product. This initial information is cost-effective compared to developing a multi-functional product. MVP has basic features for an effective product launch and developers focus on potential customers such as early adopters who are more likely to give feedback. The strategy is to avoid creating unwanted features. MVP is recreated in cycles by generating ideas, prototyping, collecting data, analyzing, and learning from the results. The aim is to minimize time spent in an iteration until the desired product is obtained or considered unsustainable.
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I want to share my story. I work in a small manufacturing company. It doesn't matter what our business is. The most common production activity. All the people in the organization are 19 people, including the founders of the company. We face challenges every day. We must constantly optimize our production processes. Otherwise, we are doomed to failures and losses. And that could destroy our business.
We have 2 teams with different production activities. Both teams are directly involved in senior management. When we talk about Lean thinking we should always look at the top management of the organization. They must be aware of the need for continuous improvement of work and conditions in the production line.
I would like to recommend to every senior management of an organization in the world to work with its employees.
This is the only way to see the problems and how work is done.
Transparency among managers and employees would be invaluable. Also, understanding the tasks and responsibilities maintains professional growth.
Team members should also be involved in optimization strategies. The results of the work are measured. The real contribution of each team member is evaluated. Work processes need to be simplified. Task time should be as short as possible. It is therefore advisable to keep the tasks small and easily achievable. The standardization of work processes and the creation of work frameworks significantly supports productivity and quality.
Also, senior management expresses respect for staff and clearly understands their rights. Each team leader supports collaboration and teamwork.
By following these approaches you will reduce errors and defects in your product.
Conduct regular circles with team members. Discuss the goals and priorities of your organization. How each of you can help these goals.
Gather information about the difficulties of each member of your team. I started to apply all these ideas and simple solutions. We are already making progress.
There are probably many different strategies and approaches for spreading MVP thinking in an organization. However, the basis of any successful one is the correct understanding of the essence of "MVP", so that on this basis to develop a broader and more thorough theoretical and practical knowledge of the methods of application, benefits, etc. I mean, it's easy for anyone to read two lines in google and get a general, superficial idea of what it is. It is quite another to start applying it and realize the potential benefits that such a way of thinking would bring in every aspect.
I would start by organizing an event of such an informative nature as to ensure that the whole organization is provided with a minimum of knowledge on the subject; to intrigue and engage the minds of the audience. It can be in the form of a seminar/lecture/training/conference - no matter the exact name.
Procedurally, I would first seek the support of senior management, and then the assistance of the HR department. To make things as easy and cheap as possible, I would suggest that I create the content (presentation) by hiring the most appropriate shots, which can also be given on the floor at the right time. The event, because of the minimal investment, can take place in the organization itself in a larger hall in the last hours (from two to two and a half hours) of a working day. In the first part, I would make a presentation with the possibility of questions at the end. (My presence at such events has made me believe that the more productive part is in the "cocktail" or immediately after the event. Usually, not all people feel comfortable sharing their views and ideas in front of a wider audience.
So a short A "cocktail", again provided during the working day, would provide an opportunity for people to get together and share their impressions of what they have heard so far. , the ideas, the experience that the teams have on the topic.) Thus, with a minimal investment (2-3 hours of working time) and unpretentious catering that does not require a grand budget, all teams will have a chance not only to get acquainted with this concept but also immediately after that they will have the chance to discuss it.
(Of course, a conference or cocktail party should not be organized on every topic, I am far from this idea. However, the topic is especially important and key. And .. while in lean thinking the process will be long and multi-component, the idea of MVP is correct On the other hand, such an approach will be a kind of indicator of the organization's culture and priorities, once a whole event is dedicated to the topic and requires the participation of all, this shows how much the company wants to establish certain principles in style: Work smart, not hard / Be creative while working wisely / Maximize the value of each invested effort / Avoid waste).
Successful implementation of Lean requires a deep understanding of the theory and idea of Lean thinking. To implement the 5 Lean principles in the organization, it is necessary to follow these steps:
Managers must present Lean to all employees. Leaders are the core and driving force that will adapt the principles in the organization. That is why they must understand what change is. Managers need to know how the change will benefit the development of the entire organization. In addition to managers, the entire organization must be familiar with these principles.
The problem that may arise at this stage is to have difficulty with the assimilation of the idea and its incomplete understanding by managers, and hence at lower levels in the organization.
The next step is, after making sure that everyone is familiar with the basic principles, to analyze all processes and activities. We need to distinguish between activities that carry business value and waste.
A possible problem is an unwillingness and resistance to reject an outdated and ineffective method of work or even position. Sometimes employees are so used to their work and habits that they don't want to change anything. Sometimes the new and the different can scare them and cause mistrust.
Another important thing we need to do is visualize the flow of value-added through the Kanban board. This is where the possibility of self-organization teams can be tested. Scrum Guide notes self-organization as an important quality of the Development team, but working with Kanban requires the same.
After specifying the added value, a process of creating a methodology for the smooth creation of this value follows. We need to improve all the weaknesses in the processes and activities of the organization.
We need to work on new projects only when there is demand. In this way, we will have free resources that we can invest in improving the current activity.
In addition, we need to implement an appropriate culture at the organizational level to ensure a continuous process of improvement.
In general, all processes start from the managerial levels, are mastered to a level where they become part of the perception and mindset of managers and everyone in the organization. Managers then assign processes down the organization to the lowest level. This is about embedding values, which is certainly not an easy and quick process. We need to approach it with understanding and patience, as full commitment to the process.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product that has the minimum amount of features that are sufficient to satisfy the needs of the first users. The main purpose of such a product is to obtain feedback for the formation of hypotheses for the further development of the product.
Focusing on creating an MVP means that developers potentially avoid lengthy and (ultimately) unnecessary work. Gathering information through an MVP is usually cheaper than developing a product with more features. This allows for reduced costs and risks in case the product is not successful, which can happen, for example, due to wrong hypotheses.
Features of MVP
A feedback loop is provided with a minimum viable product to guide the future development of each product. It has a satisfactory value for which people are willing to buy it or use it initially in the early market. Also, it helps sustain the early adopters of the product by demonstrating enough future benefits. It can assess customers' wants and preferences as well as when they use the product.
Elements of MVP
Functionality: The functions defined in the MVP should be clear to the customers. The product set of features/features presented to the customer should serve the purpose of providing clear value to the customer.
Reliability: Extensive testing must be done to meet the product's quality standard. This helps generate greater customer trust for products, produced in the future.
Design: The design of the MVP should be unique and of the highest standard of quality.
Usability: Using an MVP should not be complicated and should be intuitive.