All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
As an entrepreneur, majority of my time is spent doing “product management”. It is also an area I’m really passionate about. Product management is a bit of a vague role and it really varies company to company. In smaller startups usually the founder is also the product guy. As companies grow and their product becomes more complex, Product Managers are hired to make sure that the team ships a great product by determining customer needs and building product features around those needs.
A lot of my own product managment process is adaped from the Lean UX methodology. It’s a process that promotes collaboration, experimentation and constant iteration.
Lean UX works really well if your team is agile and follows the four core principles of agile software development:
- Individuals and interactions over process and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Here are the core principles of Lean UX and how they can be applied to your own product management process.
- Cross Functional Teams – the process behind lean UX is a highly collaborative one and usually requires people from various disciplines to be involved including: Software engineers, product managers, interaction designers, visual designers, copy writers, marketers and QA.
- Small, Dedicated, Co-located – To keep things efficient teams should not be more than 10 people. For me, I prefer a team size of no more than 4 – 6 people.
- Outcomes, Not Output – Results are measured based on business outcomes not features
- Problem-Focused Teams – As a continuation of “Outcomes, Not Output”, the entire team should be focused on coming up with solutions around a particular business problem and not a requested feature set.
- Removing Waste – Any activity that does not help achieve our desired outcome should be eliminated.
- Small Batch Size – Focusing on designs that can be implemented to move forward with the desired outcome.
- Continuous Discovery – Throughout the product development process, keeping the users involved and getting feedback is a crucial in discovering new ideas and staying focused towards achieving the desired outcome.
- “Getting out of the building” – This builds on top the previous principle. While getting feedback with your internal team is important. “Getting out of the building” as Steve Blank says it, allows you to get direct customer feedback.
- Shared Understanding – Making sure that whole team is onboard and understand what outcomes are being allows less confusion down the road.
- Anti-Pattern: Rockstars, Gurus and Ninjas – Team cohesion is critical throughout the product development process. Rockstars don’t share – neither their ideas nor the spotlight.
- Externalize Your Work – The product development process should be all done externally through Whiteboards, foam-core boards, artifact walls, printouts, and sticky notes so that the work is exposed and progress is seen by teamates, collegues and customers.
- Making over Analysis – Prototyping and getting direct feedback instead of over analyzing if something should be built or not.
- Learning over Growth – Scaling before determining if an idea has validated can be risky and also waste a lot of time. Learning and iterating should be the focus throughout the process.
- Permission to Fail – Permission to fail breeds a culture of experimentation. Experimentation breeds creativity. Creativity, in turn, yield innovative solutions.
- Getting out of the Deliverables Business – Documents don’t solve customer problems – good products do. The process is focused shipping product that users can interact with rather than documents filled with feature ideas.
If you want to learn more about this process I highly recommend you check out Jeff Gothelf’s Lean UX Book. Here’s a short video that further highlights the advantages of using Lean UX: