Continuous Innovation — Love the Problem
In 2009, entrepreneurs from all over the world joined in on a grassroots movement taking place that led to the Lean Startup. The reason the Lean Startup was so successful is that it triggered on a fundamental shift in how customers demand and consume products, which transformed the way we build and deliver products.
It’s always been about customer pull
Looking back at the last century of product development…
1950s — Lean Manufacturing — Reduce Waste
The early 20th century marked the industrialization era where everyday products, from razors to cars, were increasingly being mass-produced in factories. Driven by severe resource constraints after the war, many industries started adopting just-in-time manufacturing. Taiichi Ohno doubled down on these ideas, and developed the Toyota Production System, which eventually became Lean Manufacturing. Efficiency (or reducing waste) was the name of the game and unfair advantages came from being able to produce the most number of units at the lowest cost.
1970s — Waterfall — Staged
As we moved into software/digital products, our first approach was to adopt the same processes we used for building physical products to digital products. As design changes were prohibitively expensive to introduce in the middle of the production cycle, products were built using a sequential or Waterfall approach — with distinct stages for requirements gathering, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance. Planning was the name of the game and unfair advantages came from being able to execute “the plan” — on time and within budget.
1990s — Agile — Iterative
With the proliferation of personal computers (PCs), the long cycle times of a Waterfall product development process (measured in years) could no longer keep up with the pace of customer demand. It was quite typical for requirements to change in the middle of the production cycle and a new lighter-weight process was needed. Around this time, a number of different iterative product development methodologies, like Scrum and XP, starting popping up — proposing that products be built incrementally and incorporate customer feedback at periodic intervals during the product development cycle. These alternate methodologies were subsequently codified under the umbrella of Agile (in the now-famous Snowbird meeting in Utah in early 2001). Iteration was the name of the game and unfair advantages came from being able to manage the risk of changing requirements.