A few days ago I enjoyed a high energy weekend mentoring at the Lean Startup Machine workshop in Sydney. Around 65 participants formed 12 teams to explore their startup business ideas and make sure they were properly focused on delivering value. Not surprisingly there were quite a few discoveries and changes of direction. The final outcome was impressive with some well-crafted pitches delivered in style and validated in a variety of ways including that all-important cash commitment. Startups aside, I believe the underlying ideas have an important part to play in any innovative endeavor regardless of scale.
I was recently in a discussion where I was asked to explain the difference between Agile, Lean and Six Sigma. So I thought it would be worth sharing my (expanded) response here.
Starting with Six Sigma we are talking about a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. In particular the emphasis is on using statistical tools and quality management techniques to focus these improvements on the primary causes of defects and variability in a process.
I've been talking to quite a few people recently about using Lean Startup (Eric Ries) and the associated Minimum Viable Product philosophy in a variety of product development situations. Whilst being an avid supporter, my concern is that there is another kind of MVP lurking beneath the surface - a Maximum Viable Product.
An evolutionary process that leverages progressive learning makes sense in many situations where new ground is being broken and there is a high risk that a solution might be unobtainable (at least in the form initially envisaged). Clearly, startups do not have a monopoly on this type of development and such an approach has been used for many years in the defence and oil & gas industries (to name but a few).