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, …

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…

View original post 1,373 more words

Celebration grid – Management 3.0

Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. If you evaluate objectively what you’re doing – over and over again – and you’re not satisfied with the output – why would you keep repeating it? Humans are creatures of habit and routine. If you’d like to change something in your routine, you should focus on small and incremental changes. How does this work in groups of people? At home… , at work? We would like to improve our behavior and practices, but the daily routine often prevents us.

Here’s the idea:

1/ create an environment which allows to try-out something else, regardless the outcome

2/ actually plan (with your peers) to try-out new stuff

and 3/ focus on the learning.

Trying-out‘ basically means experimenting. It could be whatever: a new approach, a new practice, a different technique, … you don’t know the outcome, you make an educated guess. List your assumptions.

A few recommendations:

  • select a limited number of experiments (may be just ‘one’) (as with any action point for improvement); and plan to “execute” the experiment the next iteration (e.g. the next 2 weeks)
  • regardless of the outcome, plan to discuss and evaluate the experiment at the next ‘retrospective’. An experiment should be evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively – specify the “evaluation metrics” beforehand.
  • focus on the learning: what did you learn? In the end, do you consider the outcome a success or a failure? When not convinced, you can plan to extend the experiment. Or create a different experiment. Often, in teams, there are a lot of dynamics – different backgrounds, different opinions, no consensus – and that’s okay. The point is to agree to not-agree and to plan an experiment and evaluate the outcome.

Questions to ask

Focus on the following questions:

1/ What did we do well?

2/ What did we learn?

The first question helps us to focus on the positive outcome. It’s essential to celebrate successes – do not only focus on bad stuff happening.

The second question helps us to really think about learning. In fact, it’s not that important if we fail or succeed, it’s important to learn (from successes and failures). Remember FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.

FAIL = First Attempt In Learning

Tool: celebration grid

The following canvas helps to keep track of successes, failures and experiments. And most importantly to focus on learning.

Management 3.0 celebration grid

Management 3.0 celebration grid

Behaviors can be mistakes, experiments, or practices – these can have a successful outcome or not.

Look at the different parts of the canvas:

Mistakes (unintentionally) may have a positive outcome, let’s evaluate and perhaps: turn them into a practice Run experiments. Evaluate, celebrate successes. Practices with a successful outcome we keep
Let’s not repeat practices (mistakes) which lead to failure Run experiments. Evaluate, learn from failures. Practices may fail, we evaluate why. Is it a one-time failure? Can we improve?
Learning is optimal when the probability of success or failure is equal.

Practices” in the broad sense, this includes relationship to people, tools, techniques.

You can use this canvas

– during retrospectives

– during any team meetings

Create a culture of experimenting. Make small investments to experiment.

Time-box the experiments. When the experiment turns out to be a failure, it had a small cost.

Make sure to plan the experiments (you can add these to the work backlog for the next iteration) and make sure to evaluate the experiments at a regular time.

An example

Celebration grid

Celebration grid example

  • We celebrate the coming of a new team member
  • We celebrate the work done by our new Scrum master
  • We had bad luck regarding the review
  • We made some mistakes which shouldn’t be repeated
  • We had some mistakes, but these were acceptable
  • We had some learnings with positive outcome! Let’s repeat these.
  • We had some learnings about failures, we made an action point!
  • And … let’s plan new experiments!


Einstein on misattribution: ‘I probably didn’t say that.’

Changing Our Routines and Habits

Celebration Grids: Performance Management that Celebrates Learning instead of Success v. Failure


Personal maps – Management 3.0

Are you all professional at work? No chit chat, no small talk, not sharing private stuff? Well, you’re not the only one. In most projects and environments I’ve worked, there’s not much sharing of private stuff; and the most “coffee talk” I hear is about work-related topics. Then again, I do ask how was my colleague’s weekend, and if anything special happened?

Frankly, do you know your colleagues, your teammates?

Are they married, do they have children, where do they live? That are the obvious questions. People’s behavior at work is very much influenced by their emotional state, their emotional well-being. It might be good to know something more about your colleague – even if you’re not the chatty type of person. A colleague’s behavior might influence the teamwork; and as a colleague you should know in all cases what could be the cause. Connecting with colleagues on an emotional level, ‘team’ bonding, being able to talk about something relevant – besides the job is important.

Moreover, working remotely should not be a barrier for connecting with your colleagues.

So, how can I know something more about my colleague, my team member, even my manager? Even when they are not physically next to me?

Try personal maps.

Personal maps are a way to note down and to visualize some information about a person. You can create personal maps of your colleagues for your own reference – or in a more transparent way: have an exercise in which each person is creating his own personal map. A personal map is like a mind map with info about that person.

Management is 5 % instruction (what you do) and 95 % communication (what your team needs.)

In a group, you can do the exercise as following:

  • Explain the purpose and how to create a personal map
  • Allow a time-slot (not too long, not too short: 10 minutes is fine) – instruct to write clearly and briefly – and people might get as creative as they can in creating a personal map!
  • Put all the personal maps on the wall
  • Let each person take a personal map (but not his own!) (*) and introduce that person – continue till each personal map has been presented

(*) otherwise a person might talk forever about himself🙂

Keep in mind that these personal maps are not a one-time exercise, these evolve as life continues! Iterate personals maps on regular times.

personal maps

Personal maps are an excellent tool to get to know remote team members. When working with a remote team, each person presents his own personal map – or … apply the same technique: collect all personal maps and each team member can present the personal map of a colleague! Be creative in organizing this.

Personal maps example

Alternatively, as team member, as coach, as manager, you can create personal maps of your colleagues on a personal basis – in order to remember personal details.

Good teams don’t need physical closeness, they need mental closeness.

Personal map example

Jurgen Appelo explaining personals maps (ACB 2016)

Why care?

Personal maps are a way to make emotional connections with your colleagues, your team members, your friends, your acquaintances. When you know something more about a person, and what’s important in his / her life – you can ask about it when relevant. You’ll see, that person will be surprised you were thinking about it – and he or she’ll appreciate (but may be not show that appreciation). Small talk is important. Humans are social beings: we crave connection.

Small talk is important. Humans are social beings: we crave connection. Get to know who your colleagues are.

I’ve used the exercise teams, also when new team members arrive. In workshops or training when you don’t know the people – it can be used as an ice-breaker. In retrospectives as a fun exercise in between. You’ll be surprised how little you know about people, and you’ll also be surprised to discover common interests! Go on and create some personal maps!