Lean Product Management – Improving the Productivity of Value Adding Steps

Lean Product Value Adding Steps

In the previous post, we discussed how to minimize wait times on the path from idea to MVP.

In this final post on developing a lean mindset, we will look into making processes more efficient.

Getting better at a process is usually more involved than eliminating wait times.

To get better, we have to reflect on a process, decide on a change we want to make, and then measure if it helped.

Toyota developed the A3 report to structure problem solving for their continuous improvement efforts. The A3 gets its name from the eponymous ISO-A3 size paper used by Toyota for the process.

Employees used it to outline a problem, their recommended solution, the experiment, the results, and the follow-up action.

At its core, the A3 steps the user through Demming cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act and provides discipline to continuous improvement efforts. On a Scrum team, the Sprint Retrospective provides a function for structuring similar improvement.

Product managers need to similarly sit down with their teams to reflect on how to make our processes more efficient.

One way that we work with teams to work more efficiently is to move away from heavy documentation and towards lighter weight methods to surface risk, engage the team, and create shared understanding of the customer problem and vision for the upcoming product.

Accepting the inherent uncertainty of new product development, we work with teams to move project risks front and center in the process. The team first maps out their understanding of the problem, solution, and business model.

Next, they consider the parts of their plan that they are unsure about and decide which of their assumptions if wrong would invalidate the entire business case or opportunity.

We then teach teams how to organize themselves to find the fastest path to validate their assumptions through research and experiments. Working in this structured fashion creates a steady flow of learning for the team and regular validation with the market.

In the end, the team spends more time going in the right direction and, thus, achieves product-market fit in less time.


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