Lean Product Management – Minimizing Wait Times
In the previous post on developing a Lean Mindset, we covered flow efficiency and how to apply the principle to get from idea to MVP (minimum viable product) faster. The post ended by mentioning two ways to shorten the time to MVP:
- Minimizing wait times (i.e., non-value added time) and
- Improving the productivity of our value-added steps.
In this post we’ll focus on the first method, to minimize wait times.
Eliminating wait times is one of the easiest ways to improve your time to MVP.
In any project, the team works through a number of steps from customer interviews, surveys, concept tests, wireframes, messaging tests, and the development of the MVP.
All the team needs to do is stay focused on moving fluidly between these steps.
But in reality, this can be much harder.
For product managers and teams that manage an existing product line, carving out the time to move a new opportunity forward can be an impediment.
Focus is where startups often have the advantage over larger organizations. But with proper prioritization and planning, any team can apply Lean to accelerate new opportunities.
The first step is to let all stakeholders who will need to contribute or be affected by the new product understand it is a high priority opportunity.
As such, they will be kept informed of progress and be expected to prioritize the project when their contribution is needed.
When the project comes to you, your job is to keep it moving by adding your part and get it to whoever is next in the sequence as soon as possible.
The second step is laying out the sequence of events and ensuring that any activity that needs lead time is started early enough to ensure the project is never stopped, waiting to enter the next step.
For a product that I once managed, if I wanted to get customer feedback on a design concept, it would take a week to get on their calendar.
Then 50% of the time, the customer would cancel the meeting on the scheduled day due to an urgent issue that came up. I would reschedule the meeting for the next week and there must have been some guilt effect because rarely would they cancel the second meeting.
I understood my customers’ behavior. If I wanted to minimize time lost waiting to get feedback, I needed to set-up the interviews one week before the designs were ready. I also needed to schedule two weeks to gather feedback from all the customers on my list.
In some ways, the advice in this post may seem obvious; but in practice, it often gets neglected and that neglect translates into weeks and months of unnecessary delays.
Attending to process, understanding the nature of your work, and thinking through a plan are some of the easiest gains you can achieve by applying a Lean mindset.