Friday, April 30, 2010

My Lessons Learned: Part 2

This is the third part of the My Lessons Learned post born of my experiences at the first Startup Lessons Learned conference on April 23, 2010. The introduction is available at this link:

Stand Up and Deliver

Anyone who has read any of Seth Godin’s copious writings knows that he spends a lot of time talking about the artist’s need to ship, to get his work out the door. Shipping ensures that what you are doing isn’t just playing around, working for you alone. Shipping is at the core of sharing your work with the world.

It is also core to the philosophy of the Lean Startup Methodology. The Build, Measure, Learn cycle is about shipping.

(The following slide is lifted from Eric’s slide deck)

The key to success with this approach is speed. Not just speed (la de da), but NASCAR SPEED!!!!!! It is top-fuel-dragster speed, it is rocket sled speed, it is speed for learning’s sake. With rapid feedback baked into the process, it is much easier to know where to devote resources and which ideas are not going to pan out. Deliver, measure, fix, and deliver again.

Git ‘r Done

The difference between heresy and prophecy is often one of sequence. Heresy often turns out to have been prophecy when properly aged. -- Hubert H. Humphrey

There were a number of Tweets and commentaries after the conference on Kent Beck’s assertion that Agile Methodology (which has historically focused on delivering high quality code), should be adjusted (perverted in some people’s minds) to deal with the realities of the Lean Startup Model.

Unlike many, Kent didn’t seem to have a lot of angst over this change; he was just adjusting Agile to the reality of startup life. Which when you think about it, was pretty agile of him.

It is my experience that most engineers don’t take to lean thinking very well. They are designers and tinkerers at heart, and are frequently unwilling to release their babies into the world until they are perfect (and sometimes even after that). Trust me, I can sympathize with this, there are deep wellsprings of OCD and control-freak behavior in my gene pool. But for the most part it is counterproductive.

For a number of years Toyota’s Lexus division used “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” as its tag line. Most people, especially engineers, read it “The Relentless pursuit of PERFECTION.” But I guarantee you that anyone with a lean background (including Toyota’s engineers) will read it “The Relentless PURSUIT of perfection.” Perfection isn’t an accomplishment it is a goal.

Lean Startup is about the PURSUIT of perfection (defined as product-market-fit). That means that anything that gets the job done quick and easy is the right answer for startup engineering. The technical problems created by this prototyping approach can be resolved later when they prove to be real-world problems and not just inelegant solutions. According to Kent good startup engineers channel Larry the Cable Guy.


To keep things easier to read on-line, I have broken this post into 5 parts (including the Introduction). I will post these over the next couple of days. To keep up with postings, you can either check back, setup your RSS reader for this feed, or monitor the #SLLConf hash tag in Twitter (you could also follow me @KurtBCarr)

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