Lean Startup – Playing Lean


Lean Startup

Lean Startup is a method, an approach for developing businesses, products or services. The method has been developed and made popular by Eric Ries. In September 2008, Ries first coined the term on his blog, Startup Lessons Learned, in a post titled “The lean startup“. His book “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” was published in September 2011.

Source: wikipedia.org

The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups, new products or services and to get a desired product to customers’ hands faster.

The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration.

It is a principled approach to new product development. It’s a combination of working in short incremental and iterative product development cycles, and by adopting a hypothesis-driven experimental approach and validated learning.

More importantly, the lean startup philosophy can be applied to any individual, team, or company looking to introduce new products or services into the market. As far concerned to me, the Lean Startup approach is applicable to any new product or service development and the only relevant approach. New product development needs an approach of experiments.

The Number One Reason Why Products Fail

At the heart of all these reasons is one core reason:
We simply build something nobody wants.

Source: The BOOTSTART Manifesto, by Ash Maurya

The principles of Lean Startup

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere
  2. Entrepreneurship is management
  3. Validated learning
  4. Innovation accounting
  5. Build-measure-learn


Lean startup principles

Lean startup principles

Source: http://theleanstartup.com/principles

The Lean Startup principles have been applied to other domains such as User eXperience, Enterprise, Branding, Customer development, analytics.

“Lean has never meant cheap”.”Lean has nothing to do with how much money a company raises,” rather it has everything to do with assessing the specific demands of consumers and how to meet that demand using the least amount of resources possible.

Lean startup terminology

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”. The goal of an MVP is to test fundamental business hypotheses (or leap-of-faith assumptions) and to help entrepreneurs begin the learning process as quickly as possible.

A split or A/B test is an experiment in which “different versions of a product are offered to customers at the same time.” The goal of a split test is to observe differences in behavior between the two groups and to measure the impact of each version on an actionable metric.

Actionable metrics can lead to informed business decisions and subsequent action. These are in contrast to vanity metrics—measurements that give “the rosiest picture possible” but do not accurately reflect the key drivers of a business.

A pivot is a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.”

Innovation accounting focuses on how entrepreneurs can maintain accountability and maximize outcomes by measuring progress, planning milestones, and prioritizing.

The Build–Measure–Learn loop emphasizes speed as a critical ingredient to product development. A team or company’s effectiveness is determined by its ability to ideate, quickly build a minimum viable product of that idea, measure its effectiveness in the market, and learn from that experiment. In other words, it’s a learning cycle of turning ideas into products, measuring customers’ reactions and behaviors against built products, and then deciding whether to persevere or pivot the idea; this process repeats as many times as necessary. The phases of the loop are: Ideas → Build → Product → Measure → Data → Learn.

Source: wikipedia.org

More resources about Lean Startup

Any other interesting resources? (feel free to suggest in comments!)

Playing Lean

Playing Lean is a simulation, a board game to experience and learn the Lean Startup principles. These kind of serious games are a great and interactive way to learn something. Playing Lean is interesting both for novices and people familiar with Lean Startup. Novices will learn about the principles and apply them in practice for the first time. People knowing about Lean Startup can vary their tactics and gain new insights. The game is flexible and it’s possible to create variations by introducing new scenarios or different market compositions.

Playing Lean” has been created by a few entrepreneurs in Oslo, Norway. For more info or to acquire the board game, see their website.

If you’re interested in organizing a Lean Startup workshop with Playing Lean, contact me.

Playing Lean workshops

  • I am facilitating community and in-company workshops
  • For public workshops check Agile Tour Brussels / London, Agile Belgium meetups, iLean evening session, …

No Business Plan Survives First Contact With A Customer – The 5.2 billion dollar mistake.

Incredible story before the 2000 “dot.com” boom illustrating the lack of customer development.

Lesson learnt (by Steve Blank)
– Business plans are the leading cause of startup death
– No Business Plan survives first contact with a customer
– Rapidly changing markets require continuous business model iteration/customer development
– Your ability to raise money has no correlation with customer adoption

Steve Blank

At $5.2-billion Iridium was one of the largest, boldest and audacious startup bets ever made. Conceived in 1987 by Motorola and spun out in 1990 as a separate company, Iridium planned to build a mobile telephone system that would work anywhere on earth. It would cover every city, town and square inch of the earth from ships in the middle of the Arctic Ocean to the jungles of Africa to the remote mountain peaks of the Himalayas. And Iridium would do this without building a single cell tower.

How? With an out-of-this-world business plan. First, the company bought a fleet of 15 rockets from Russia, the U.S. and China.  Next, it  built 72 satellites on an assembly line and used the rockets to launch them into orbit 500 miles above the earth. There the satellites acted like 500-mile high cell phone towers capable of providing phone coverage to any spot on…

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The BOOTSTART Manifesto

The BOOTSTART Manifesto (by Ash Maurya) describes some principles and attentions points for startups and products, based upon lean startup, customer development, running lean.

There’s never been a better time to act on your “big idea”.

BOOTSTART manifesto

BOOTSTART manifesto

Source: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*oCONCff8QNhO9dQkYhs0Pw.jpeg

Work Expo – Management 3.0

How to visualise a purpose? How to share a vision? How to tell your story? Quite often organisation have a vision, a mission statement (for their org, their product, their team…) But words don’t convey the message. What you should do it show, don’t tell!

Sharing a vision

Sharing a vision

Create an exposition of the work you’re doing (in your team, in your departement, or even individually). When you’re able to create an nice exposition about your work, it’s likely that you have found and visualised your purpose (Management 3.0 Work Expo).


Management 3.0 Work Expo

What to put in the work expo?

  • Work examples
  • Quotes
  • Photos
  • Communities
  • Team values
  • Stories
  • Any information radiator


Leancamp (Rotterdam)

Lean Camp is an unconference on topics as Lean Startup, Lean UX, Design Thinking, Product design, etc.

I like unconferences as each attendee has the opportunity to participate (you can propose a topic), and the interactivity is really high.

I participated in a discussion on integrating UX in agile development team; and how to maximise learnings from serious games – for example Playing Lean.

Some great sketch-notes were made by participants:


Moving motivators – Management 3.0

Why do we do the things we do? What motivates a person, what drives a team? What’s holding a team back? Mgt 3.0 has defined 10 intrinsic motivators (desires) – in the “moving motivators” exercise you can discover and reflect upon what motivates you and your team.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

Let’s recap and define what we mean with extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.

The primary difference between the two types of motivation is that extrinsic motivation arises from outside of the individual while intrinsic motivation arises from within.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behaviour or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment.

Examples of behaviours that are the result of extrinsic motivation include:

  • Studying because you want to get a good grade
  • Cleaning your room to avoid being reprimanded by your parents
  • Participating in a sport to win awards
  • Competing in a contest to win a scholarship

In each of these examples, the behaviour is motivated by a desire to gain a reward or avoid an adverse outcome.

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behaviour because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

Examples of actions that are the result of intrinsic motivation include:

  • Participating in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable
  • Solving a word puzzle because you find the challenge fun and exciting
  • Playing a game because you find it exciting

In each of these instances, the person’s behaviour is motivated by an internal desire to participate in an activity for its own sake.

The overjustification effect is a phenomenon in which being rewarded for doing something actually diminishes intrinsic motivation to perform that action. The overjustification effect occurs when an external incentive decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a behavior or participate in an activity.

10 intrinsic motivators

Mgt 3.0 has defined 10 intrinsic motivators (desires): you can memorise them as CHAMPFROGS


  • Curiosity: I have plenty of things to investigate and to think about.
  • Honor: I feel proud that my personal values are reflected in how I work.
  • Acceptance: The people around me approve of what I do and who I am.
  • Mastery: My work challenges my competence but it is still within my abilities.
  • Power: There’s enough room for me to influence what happens around me.
  • Freedom: I am independent of others with my work and my responsibilities.
  • Relatedness: I have good social contacts with the people in my work.
  • Order: There are enough rules and policies for a stable environment.
  • Goal: My purpose in life is reflected in the work that I do.
  • Status: My position is good, and recognized by the people who work with me.

Moving motivators

You can play the game as following:

Introduce the different intrinsic motivators with some background explanation and an example

Step 1 of the exercise:

  • Let each person individually order (rank) the motivators by importance from left to right (in the Western world): with left, the least important motivators and right the most important motivators

Moving Motivators step 1

  • Let people (could be in pairs) explain a bit by answering the questions: what motivates you the most? and what motivates you the least?

Step 2 of the exercise:

  • Let each person individually indicate how daily work (or a particular change in daily work) influence the motivators. Do your daily activities influence your motivators in a positive (move them upward) or negative way (move them downward)?

moving motivators2

  • Let people (could be in pairs) explain a bit the change. Why is that shift happening?

Optionally you can count the ranking of each motivator card and create a graphical overview: a “team motivating radar”. Repeat this exercise at a later point in time and compare to see if there’s any evolution.

Keep the following in mind:

  • There is no right or wrong in this exercise. Each human being has different motivators and the purpose of this exercise is to expose those differences. The goal is to be able to learn more about your peers’ motivation and to better collaborate in the future.
  • As a team, focus on those top motivators different from your peers. From this you can create a better shared understanding and get some better insight in why people are doing certain things.
  • As an individual, focus on those motivators which are negatively impacted: what’s the underlying cause? How can I proceed in the future to improve on this?
  • Invite people to share their thoughts and underlying needs to learn about their motivators. Trigger reposes by asking open questions.
  • Use the output of this exercise as an information radiator for the team
  • Use the exercise for 1 on 1 coaching or use the exercise for coaching in a group (e.g. during or after a retrospective)


Some resources:

Interviewing customers to explore problems and solutions

As I learn ...

I recently learned more about the distinction between ‘problem interviews’ and ‘solution interviews’, when interacting with your customers. The problem interview is Ash Maurya’s term for the interview you conduct to validate whether or not there’s a real problem that our target audience has. In contrast, the goal of a solution interview is to find out what features you need to build in order to solve the customer problem(s).

In the problem interview, you want to find out 3 things:

  • Problem – What problem are you solving? For example, what are the common frustrations felt by your customers and why? How do their problems rank? Ask your customers to create a top 3 of their problems (see the problem interview script in Fig. 1 below).
  • Existing alternatives – What existing alternatives are out there and how does your customer perceive your competition and their differentiators? How do your customers solve their problems…

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